As much as I hate the miserably cold (relative to our climate) weather that has besieged Austin, I am comforted by the knowledge that baseball is on the way and we are seeing more baseball preview content up every single day. Soon MLB Network will start their 30 Clubs in 30 Days series and with that hopefully the bitter cold of mid-20s with near single digits wind chills will head back to the Midwest and Northeast where it belongs. I wish this kind of weather understood how unwelcomed it was here in central Texas. Go back to the people who are insane to actually crave four seasons of weather. I’m fine with one: summer.
Ray Flowers (@BaseballGuys) has a fun series over at RotoTimes.com called “I Like Because…” where he digs deeper on some second and third tier players to show their upside. He makes his case for getting away from the term “sleeper” positing that in the information age, they don’t really exist. I see where he is coming from on the whole sleeper thing mainly because I think there are different levels of players being undervalued and putting them all under the header of sleeper simplifies it too much, but no need to rabbit-hole on that right now. I still use the term, but I like to categorize my sleepers when I do articles dedicated to identifying them.
I don’t agree with everything in the article, but I do like that he gives some love to Justin Masterson, someone I’ve been a fan of for a couple of years now. Masterson didn’t perform as I expected last year as he continues to get positively obliterated by left-handers. He needs to figure that out if he is ever going to reach his potential. For his career, lefties have a .291/.381/.433 line against him while righties are much worse at .228/.304/.322. Until he shows noticeable improvement against southpaws, he is a spot-starter against right-handed-heavy lineups only.
Over at FanGraphs, Carson Cistulli (@cistulli) did some great analysis in examining some of the top scouts of the last five years. Through his own admission, this piece is merely a jump off point to further analysis, but it is a very interesting study that I look forward to seeing fleshed out either by Cistulli or others.
As the baseball season draws nearer, so too does the release of MLB 2K11 (March 8th), the latest of a series that just keeps getting better annually. Initially the bar was pretty low, but last year was a huge stride forward and 2011 is setting up to be yet another large step toward perfection. Jon Robinson got a chance to interview Roy Halladay, this year’s cover, and discuss aspects of pitching a perfect game in 2K11 which is again will be worth a million bucks as it was last year, though Halladay admits it will be tougher. I took a few no-hitters into the 8th inning last year and one into the 9th, but I was never more than six innings into perfection. Operation Sports has plenty of MLB 2K11 coverage, too, including screenshots and previews.
MLB.com has released their fantasy baseball positional previews. It’s a great primer to kick off your 2011 fantasy prep work. They go deep at every position with 73 catchers, 83 first basemen, 95 second basemen, 85 third basemen, 81 shortstops, 202 outfielders, 21 primary DHs, 230 starting pitchers and 128 relievers. Each player capsule has the pertinent previous 3 years of stats, projections for 2011, a dollar value, a paragraph with their outlook and a “Fantasy Bottom Line”. Best of it, it’s all free. It would be a value at $8-10 which is what you would pay for a fantasy magazine that is outdated long before it hits the shelf.
Want another opinion on players? How about four more opinions? Yahoo’s team of guy has released their positional rankings as well as a top 100. These rankings are short on analysis containing just the 1 through however many deep each position goes, but the Y! gang will have plenty of content coming out throughout February and March so this is just something to whet your appetite for now.
Over at AOL Fanhouse, Frankie Piliere (@FrankiePiliere) released his top 100 prospects list for 2011. His #1 player won’t surprise, but his #2 might as might a noticeable absence from the top five. Piliere has experience as a talent evaluator and scout so this is far from a dartboard approach to he is using. He certainly doesn’t tow the industry line either. I scanned the list 1-100, but I’ve yet to read every capsule so I’m interested to see his analysis on players (1-50 have a paragraph of breakdown included).
Bill Ladson was on the Beyond the Boxscore podcast this week and he said he expects Stephen Strasburg to be pitching in September of this year. That’s probably the most aggressive projection for Strasburg’s return as many have had him out for all of 2011. If this is true, it possibly raises an interesting question for non-keeper drafters about whether or not to take Strasburg and when. Obviously if you have to keep him in the active roster all year, there is no way you would draft him in March.
However, if there is a reserve roster system in your league then you have to weigh the potential of him helping you for a stretch run against killing a precious roster spot for a guaranteed five months. For me personally, I wouldn’t even entertain it, but that’s my conservative approach. Who knows what he would even deliver in six or seven starts to close out the season. He could be like teammate Jordan Zimmerman who went 1-2 with a 4.94 ERA, 1.32 WHIP and 7.8 K/9 in seven starts or slightly better like Tim Hudson in 2009 who went 2-1 with a 3.61 ERA, 1.47 WHIP and 6.4 K/9 also in seven starts. Neither was a game-changer for their owner down the stretch, but neither has the talent of Strasburg, either.
OK, I like Blake Griffin as much as the next guy, but what the hell is going on here?? It’s pretty hilarious if you ask me, but definitely in a creepy kind of way.
In addition to being hilarious, this is also awesome: Saved by the Bell Megacast! I don’t have a clue who Rob Cesternino or Eric Stein are, but by listening to the podcast I eventually learned that they are reality TV people of some sort. That information is totally irrelevant. All that matters is that they did a 2 hour and 51 minute podcast devoted solely to Saved by the Bell. If you grew up loving the show like I did, watching the 2 hour blocks on cable during the weekdays and then the new episodes on Saturday mornings on NBC, then this is a must-listen.
Knowledge Bomb: In keeping with the theme of ranking lists being released today, I’ll share my top 24 catchers for 2011 in today’s KB. Catcher remains top-heavy in terms of star power, but the next level down is much deeper than it has been in past years. Catcher is a tough position to figure in fantasy baseball because it’s the only position with built in days off and the grind of catching can easily add extra days off to that total thanks to nicks and bruises throughout the season.
It is rare that the top catcher will be on par with the top guys at the other positions. The exceptions are transcendent seasons like Joe Mauer’s 2009 campaign. One strategy to consider is find catcher-eligible guys who will spend a lot or even most of their time elsewhere on the diamond this year. Their value will still be highest at catcher on your roster, but if their team plays them at first base, outfield or DH, that’s a good thing for your team.
- Joe Mauer
- Victor Martinez
- Brian McCann
- Buster Posey
- Carlos Santana
- Mike Napoli
- Geovany Soto
- Miguel Montero
- Matt Wieters
- Kurt Suzuki
- Carlos Ruiz
- Chris Iannetta
- Jorge Posada
- Yadier Molina
- J.P. Arencibia
- A.J. Pierzynski
- John Buck
- Miguel Olivo
- Ryan Doumit
- Alex Avila
- Jarrod Saltalamacchia
- John Jaso
- Russell Martin
- Jesus Montero
- Jason Castro
Overvalued: Buster Posey – his great debut and playoff exposure has him going in the 4th round of a lot of drafts. That’s really high for most catchers, but especially for those with just 423 at-bats on their record, even for a wunderkind like Posey.
Undervalued: A.J. Pierzynski – he’s not great by any stretch, but he’s often overlooked. 2011 will be no different as a putrid April and weak May tanked his numbers and covered up a .299 AVG/.719 OPS in the second half (up from .247/.664).
Best of the Rest: Josh Thole – a great approach at the plate (24 BB/25 K in 227 PA) plus a wide open chance at the full-time gig gives the 24-year old a chance at a solid season. He’s never had even a modicum of power (10 HR in 1733 minor lg PAs) and that’s really what you want from your backstop which is why he didn’t crack the first 25.
Rookie to Watch: Jesus Montero – it’s hard not to be impressed with the prospects of Montero as he has ripped through the minor leagues like few before him, but the presence of Posada and Martin make it tough to project much playing time for the 21-year old right now. Given that he needs to work on his defense if he expects to stay behind the dish, he’s like to spend a lot of time in AAA to hone his defensive skills.
I’ll leave you with a breakdown of reporting dates for each organization as we get closer & closer to the beginning of Spring Training: