Fantasy Baseball Top 100: 41-60

Apologies for the delay, but a hectic weekend was capped off very poorly with my girlfriend’s car being broken into! That said, we’re more than half way home on the initial top 100 with 41-60 listed below, as always in inverse order to enhance suspense ;):

60. Aaron Hill – Toronto Blue Jays, 2B (26):
Consider me a believer of the immense 2007 growth and not just because I was a benefactor as his owner in one league. His increases in line drive and fly ball rates were keys to the power surge (17 HR in ’07 after six the year before) and it didn’t cost him any batting average as he stayed at .291. His improvement along with others has turned second base from a fantasy wasteland into a position with a bit of depth. Nothing within his statistical set suggest 2007 was a fluke and at age 26, he might even see more growth.

59. Gary Sheffield – Detroit Tigers, DH (39):
A brilliant first half was derailed by nagging injuries in the second, but it didn’t completely “slow” him down as he ended up with 13 steals after the break giving him 22 for the year. If the off-season surgery fixed up the shoulder then he could put together the season that his first half was setting up. Run scoring and run producing opportunities will be plentiful in Motown, so I see a very productive season given health. The speed will be the X-factor and key to eliminating the downside of being DH-only.

58. Hideki Matsui – New York Yankees, OF (33):
Matsui rebounded solidly from injury-riddled 2006 as he was once again a 4-category threat. More of the same should be on tap this season, especially in that lineup. Injury is the only thing that has ever derailed his ability to produce at the highest levels since coming to the United States, so a full season of health brings a near guarantee of .300-25-100-100, bid with confidence.

57. Chone Figgins – Los Angeles Angels, 3B (30):
Figgins is now down to eligibility at third base only, but still put together an excellent despite essentially taking off two months. He missed all but one game of April with an injury, but then his .156 and five steals in all of May were almost like he wasn’t there anyway. He made up for lost time with an absurd June that saw him hit .461 and nab 14 bases letting his owners he was completely healthy. In fact, from June on, he hit .376 and stole 36 bases. He is a two category guy playing a power position, but his primary asset (the speed) is very bankable on the Angels. Pay for 40+ steals and stockpile power at 1B and OF to compensate.

56. Brad Hawpe – Colorado Rockies, OF (28):
Hawpe took another large step forward in power and run production, but continued the steps backwards in hitting left-handers (hitting .214 to continue a three-year downtrend against southpaws). Coors Effect splits are there (1.017 home OPS/.831 road OPS), but hardly alarming making it hard not to love putting him in your outfield. If he figures out lefties, he might have 40-home run ability, and if not then enjoy a 2007 repeat with a few more bombs.

55. Derek Jeter – New York Yankees, SS (33):
Mr. Intangible took a dip in fantasy production a year ago, though will undoubtedly continue to go for top dollar/early pick because of his name alone. He cut his speed by more than half with just 15 stolen bases last year against the 34 from 2006 and dropped off in runs scored and runs driven in despite more at-bats. At 33, there is no reason to bet on the speed returning, but he’ll still offer the handful of steals. When looking at his past five seasons, the 97 RBIs of ’06 is the outlier, so don’t look for that again, either. He is a 15-15 guy with a great average and a ton of runs scored thanks to that lineup, so bid accordingly.

54. Miguel Tejada – Houston Astros, SS (31):
Four straight of years declining home run totals have owners fleeing, but keep in mind that there was a good bit of time missed last year and he would’ve fallen just two home runs shy of his ’06 production had he equaled the ’06 at-bat total last year. The move Houston should boost value and widespread fears could make him an excellent buy-low candidate this season. The days of 30+ home runs aren’t likely to return, but a .300-25-100 line from shortstop for the round or dollar amount he is likely to command this year is very nice.

53. Garrett Atkins – Colorado Rockies, 3B (28):
It was a tale of two halves for Atkins in 2007 as he needed a remarkable 2nd half performance to save his season. The slow start kept him from matching the 2006 output, but he performed well enough to give owners confidence for this season. His 2nd half power boost came in spite of a large dip in flyball rate. My guess would be he was just trying to get under everything in the 1st half in hopes of becoming a 30+ home run hitter, but when that didn’t work he went back to his old approach realizing he can still hit home runs with a low-40s flyball rate (his 29 home run output in ’06 was with a 41% FB rate).

52. Hunter Pence – Houston Astros, OF (25):
Pence burst onto the scene with a white-hot May and only a wrist fracture in July slowed him down. He delivered 5-category production in 2007 and I doubt 2008 will be all that different. His position in the batting order seems up in the air with the addition of Miguel Tejada. Some sources suggest he could be as low as sixth with Lance Berkman, Carlos Lee and Tejada ahead of him in no particular order. That may lower his ceiling in the runs scored and runs driven in columns, but keep in mind that Colorado’s Brad Hawpe hit 6th for 444 of his 516 at-bats last year.

51. Chipper Jones – Atlanta Braves, 3B (36):
Powered by his biggest at-bat total since 2003 (with 513), Jones was able to put together his best across-the-board season since 2001. That said, he still only played 134 games and hasn’t played more than 137 since 2003, so you are still paying for 70-to-80% of a season when acquiring Jones. In one league I was in last year, I saw things get quiet when his price hit $19, but I was more than happy to pay $20 to secure his services. It is highly unlikely he’ll go for prices like that this year, but he should. Expect .300-25-85 with anything higher being gravy.

50. C.C. Sabathia – Cleveland Indians, SP (27):
Sabathia has put together four straight seasons of improvement, including last year’s Cy Young-worthy effort, yet he will be just 27 this year! Even more amazing was that the three years before he started this run were all pretty damn solid. He hasn’t really had anything resembling a bad year during his 7-year career. The downside is that he has gone 180.1 innings or more in each of those seven seasons piling up 1406.1 innings in the process making overuse a concern. At this point, I am willing to believe he can handle the workload, but it is something to be aware of if you’re targeting him.

49. Shane Victorino – Philadelphia Phillies, OF (27):
Aaron Rowand’s departure gives Victorino job security patrolling centerfield for the Phillies this year. With a full season of work, Victorino has the ability to post 50+ stolen bases, which would have been 3rd or 4th in the National League last year. As it was, his 37 landed him 6th. He is a three category guy adding runs scored and batting average to the speed, but his owners have got to love the chip-in homers he brought to the table last year as well (12).

48. Brandon Webb – Arizona Diamondbacks, SP (29):
His natural progression of adding two wins per season since 2005 means he is ready for 20 in 2008! I am obviously kidding, but Webb has become a premier pitcher since gaining a handle on his control during that ’05 season. The excellent defense up the middle with Stephen Drew, Orlando Hudson and Chris Young plays perfectly to his style of pitching. Like Sabathia, he is piling up innings with four straight 200+ seasons in a row, but that doesn’t mean he is guaranteed to breakdown. In fact, it is merely a caveat for him and anyone else within this list. You simply cannot argue with the results that Webb has delivered for the past three seasons and it is hard to expect anything less in ’08.

47. Josh Beckett – Boston Red Sox, SP (27):
After a disastrous debut season in Boston (5.10 ERA in 2006), Beckett picked up where 2005 left off en route to a Cy Young Award. Unlike the past two starters mentioned, Beckett hasn’t really piled up the innings because injuries have stunted several seasons. His career best season came on the heels of his career worst, but there is little doubt that the former is in line with his ability. Look for more of the same in 2008 and it is clear the wins will pile up regardless of performance in Boston.

46. Erik Bedard – Baltimore Orioles (for now), SP (29):
If Bedard does in fact start the season with the Orioles, then he may see his position slide, but at the time of version 1.0 of this list he is heavily rumored to Seattle. He put it all together for an incredible season last year and would’ve likely garnered plenty of attention for the Cy Young Award had an oblique strain in late August not sapped six to seven starts away from him. His best days are likely head of him as he combines great power (4th in Ks) and control (3rd in WHIP). If he finds himself on a winner, the sky is the limit.

45. Justin Morneau – Minnesota Twins, 1B (26):
You never like to jump on the guys with poor second halves like the one suffered by Morneau in ’07. Three home runs in August and September screams either injury or approach flaw and in both cases the offseason is likely the best remedy for him. He should bat 4th all year in ‘08 with Torii Hunter departed and Morneau’s production in that spot much better than Michael Cuddyer’s. His upside remains .300-40-120, but monitor spring performance where auction and draft dates allow before bidding for 2006 production.

44. Carlos Pena – Tampa Bay Rays, 1B (29):
Pena’s 2007 netted him the Comeback Player of the Year Award and while his career year was surprising, it was only because he had yet to cash in on the potential everyone saw for him as he rose through the minors. It took awhile, but he has arrived. Nothing within the statistics from ’07 forecasts a large regression except perhaps his newfound ability against lefties (.271 against .146, .245 and .208 in his previous three full seasons). Downside suggests an Adam Dunn-like season with 40 home runs and a sub .265 average, while the upside suggests a 2007 repeat or better!

43. Manny Ramirez – Boston Red Sox, OF (35):
You know you are a superstar when a .296-20-88 season is a down year for you. But was it just an off year or is he done? Given his track record, I am willing to bet it was merely an off year for Ramirez’s power and while he likely won’t put together another 40+ home run season, his 30+ days aren’t all gone. In some leagues, he will undoubtedly come at a discount. If you play in such a league, then enjoy the price cut and take a .300-30-100 season to the bank provided he is healthy enough to play 140+ games.

42. Chris Young – Arizona Diamondbacks, OF (24):
Even if you didn’t have an Ichiro or Matt Holliday to cancel out Young’s atrocious average, he still provided outstanding value to the teams he was on in 2007 with a 32-27 rookie season. His skills predicted something closer to .270 and when combined with expected growth from this budding superstar, it wouldn’t be unreasonable to see him reach that mark in the upcoming season. He batted 1st in over half of his games and hit for a better average (.251) there than he had in the other two slots where he saw significant time (6th and 7th). So much to like across the board with Young that you almost overlook the average in ’07 and expect to have to absorb something similar in ’08 just to be on the safe side.

41. Troy Tulowitzki – Colorado Rockies, SS (23):
Only an other-worldly season by Ryan Braun kept Tulowitzki from grabbing hardware for his brilliant debut campaign. While he is your typical Coors Effect hitter (.326 home/.256 road), that does not negate his value no matter how much people may try to make it. Sure, you want to be aware of the fact that he benefits greatly from his home park, but his numbers accumulated in Coors don’t count for any less than if they were done elsewhere! Instead of hitting the 2nd half wall, he surged after the break which bodes well moving forward. Hope for improvement on the home/road splits, but be content if it doesn’t happen this year and take 20+ home runs and 90+ runs batted in from your shortstop.

I should have 21-40 up no later than Wednesday evening as long as everything goes according to schedule. I have also finished my 1st book of 2008, which I will review on Monday night and post no later than Tuesday.


One Comment to “Fantasy Baseball Top 100: 41-60”

  1. I really liked your blog with the Justin Morneau item. I think Morneau could be a hall-of-famer.
    I try to follow as much MLB news as I can from Caracas, Venzuela.

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