Archive for ‘Draft’

Tuesday: 06.28.2011

The Top 15 for 2012 Right Now, Part II

Last time out, I covered 11 names I legitimately considered for the top 15 for 2012 and I am sure there were a few names that you were surprised to see on the outside.  Let’s see who actually makes the top 15 as it stands right now:

15. Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS, OF) – On a Carl Crawfordian pace this year of 51 SB, 19 HR, 83 RBI, 118 R and .304 AVG.  So they added a Crawford-like line to the lineup, just not from the guy they paid all the money to in the offseason.  Ellsbury is more of a .285 hitter, but that’s a difference of 13 hits for his at-bat total which isn’t too much to a fantasy team’s bottom line.  He is just one home run from a new high watermark in home runs, but I’m not sure he can be counted on for high-teens power just yet.  Even still, he can almost singlehandedly win you the stolen base category while getting you a nice head start in runs at the same time.  The power production is an added bonus.

14. Prince Fielder (MIL, 1B) – Fielder is a tremendous power source who has just entered his prime.  I might be alarmed by the on-off pattern of his OPS totals (sub-.880 in even years, 1.010 or better in odd years) if those kind of staggered patterns had any predictive value whatsoever.  The fact is that even in his “down” years, he is a still 30-home run hitter.  I put a lot of stock in his 157+ games played record from 2006-2010.  My goal in the early rounds is bankable production as nothing kills a team more than missed time.  You can’t predict injuries, but Prince sure hasn’t shown any propensity for getting hurt so with him you are playing the favorable odds.

13. Alex Rodriguez (NYY, 3B) – Are you ready to write him off?  I’m not.  He is on pace for another 30-100 season, marks he hasn’t been below since 1997.  And he would have a streak of 30-100-100 just as long if it hadn’t been for some injuries the past two seasons.  Third base is painfully thin which boosts his value even though his numbers don’t really “overwhelm” anymore.  That he was able to reach 30-100 the last three years despite games played totals of 138, 124 and 137, respectively, only tells you the kind of transcendent talent he is even in his mid-30s.

12. Robinson Cano (NYY, 2B) – “Oh hey guys, don’t mind me, I’m just Robinson Cano and I’m on pace for .290-30-100-100-13.  Yeah, I have added some speed to my game this year already setting a career high in June (6), no bigs.  Yes, I started the first half of May on a .186 slump and I was even hitting just .273 as of June 9th, but that didn’t suit me so well so I have been hitting .420 since putting to rest any fears about me.”  Thanks, Robbie.  The counting stats are pretty much locked in because of his teammates and nothing in his profile suggests you can’t count on mid-20s to low-30s home runs totals with a .300-.320 average.  Oh and he’s played 160-159-161-160 games the last four years and he’s on pace for 160 this year.  Consistency, embrace it!

11. Troy Tulowitzki (COL, SS) – He is currently on pace for .276-30-107-85-13 with just one of his patented “cannot-get-him-out-for-two-weeks” streaks which he started the season with back in April.  I would be willing to bet that he has at least one more of those which will surely boost his season pace.  He is an across the board star at shortstop and posting three 24-32 HR/92-99 RBI seasons in the last four has earned him first round credibility.  Though the one chink in his armor is the streakiness.  This applies to head-to-head leaguers, but while he can win two weeks going away during one his streaks, he will disappear for weeks at time shortly thereafter.  In roto you set it and forget it, but in H2H I would push his ranking down a bit.

10. Hanley Ramirez (FLO, SS) – Barring an insane second half, he is in line for the worst year of his career, but it still somewhat salvageable.  Despite the busted year, it would be foolish to overreact and downgrade him too much.  This is still a guy with five elite years under his belt at the thinnest position on the diamond.  You want to pass him over?  Good, more for me.  It will depend how his final line looks, but there is a good chance it will look pretty lame for Ramirez’s standards and that will drive his value down too much in a lot of leagues.

Those owners who benefit from his drop will be like the owners who have Jose Reyes this year, in other words, they will have a great value on their hands.  I still bumped him down a bit from where I had him this preseason, but that is based more on guys who emerged than a pure downgrade of Ramirez.  I could still envision a scenario where I take him in the top 5-7.  There aren’t major gaps in talent between these elite players.  I think it is as close between 1 and 15 as it’s ever been.  Or least as I ever remember.

9. Evan Longoria (TB, 3B) – Injuries have derailed the huge year I thought we would see from Longo in 2011 and there is a growing chorus that believes he is overrated as a first round fantasy pick.  I’m steadfastly in the Longoria camp and I don’t plan on leaving for 2012.  He is one of six players to start his career with three straight seasons with a .500+ SLG in 500+ PAs*.  The others are Albert Pujols, Ted Williams, Joe DiMaggio, Earl Averill and Paul Waner.  For those of you scoring at home, that’s five Hall of Famers (yep, I’m putting Pujols in as an active player).  He will need to do some work to notch a fourth (which all the Hall of Famers achieved), but either way this is a superstar in the making.  Like Ramirez, there is still time to salvage his season this year.  His skills profile is worth betting on, especially at 26 years old playing a thin position.

(*the one flaw in this is that Baseball-Reference’s Play Index doesn’t delineate between first season and rookie season so any player who may have had a cup of coffee one year and then went on to three straight 500 PA/.500 SLG seasons won’t be captured in this study.)

8. Carlos Gonzalez (COL, OF) – CarGo’s 2010 has a good chance to end up as his career year, yet many believed it was a sign of things to come and elevated him as the top outfielder in the game.  Gaudy BABIP and HR/FB rates propped up his batting average and home run totals meaning it would take a unique streak of luck to see 34/.336 again in 2011.  That doesn’t mean I thought he would stink, but I preferred him a little later in the first round than most and third amongst outfielders.  Let’s not forget that he will be just 26 years old next year.  Not only is the elite talent bunched together as we head into 2012, but a lot of the key pieces are still very young.

7. Jose Reyes (NYM, SS) – This is about where he would have ranked this preseason had his health been guaranteed and he wasn’t coming off of his two worst seasons including one in which he played just 36 games.  He has more triples in 73 games this year (13) than he had in his 169 games the last two years (12).  His pace for 57 stolen bases would eclipse the two year total by 16.  In other words, he is back to being superstar Reyes.  He isn’t on pace for the double-digit home run total we saw in four out of five years from 2006-2010, but he is still raking the ball as evidenced by the triples count and the pace for a career-high of 42 doubles.  This season is well in line with the track record he established from 2005-2008 and if you favor positional scarcity, Reyes is worth a pick anywhere between here and the top of the draft.

6. Matt Kemp (LAD, OF) – Back in November of 2010, I ranked Kemp 23rd in my top 24 and by the time draft season rolled around, I was taking him anywhere in the second round even if it was the 13th pick overall (1st pick in the 2nd round of a standard 12-teamer).  In that piece I said he could rebound for a big 30-30 season in 2011.  Jeez, I may have severely undersold him.  He is on pace for a 44-44 with 125 RBIs, 104 Rs and a .324 batting average.  Even as bullish as I was on Kemp, I didn’t necessarily see this.  There is still more than half the season so nothing is set in stone, but one thing we do know is that Kemp is a fantasy star.  Sure his .249 batting average hurt those who took him in the first round in 2010 (*raises hand*), but he still played EVERY game and delivered pretty big numbers in the other four categories.  The Bison is a beast… and he turns all of 27 next year.

5. Adrian Gonzalez (BOS, 1B) – Remember how many times you thought, “what would Gonzalez do if he wasn’t stuck in Petco?”.  The answer is: this!  Gonzalez has been downright elite and he is on pace for a .356-34-151-119 season doing exactly what we all thought he might with the Green Monster (peppering it with a league-high of 25 doubles; on pace for 53).  He would merit some first round consideration from 2006-2010 (a period during which he played fewer than 160 games just once and it was 156), but his home park and weak supporting cast would always hold him back.  Coming in this season, he was a first round pick in a lot of leagues, but not quite a consensus first rounder.  Now everything sets up in his favor and at 30 next year, he is still in his prime.  Even if he falls off of his absurd paces (especially the .356 & 151), he will no doubt be elite and finally be a no doubt first rounder.

4. Jose Bautista (TOR, 3B/OF) – It is a big statement to rate him this high based on 229 games, but does anyone really still see him as anything close to fluke at this point?  He has actually improved on a career year and significantly so taking his game from a power-only to well-rounded with a gaudy .328 batting average, an absurd .473 on-base percentage and a pace for double-digit stolen bases.  Not only that, but a recent move back to third base all but guarantees his eligibility there for 2012 which adds a lot to his value given the dearth of talent at the position beyond the small tier of elite options.  He has given us every reason to believe his surge into stardom, but I still couldn’t rank him above the legend.  His third base/outfield eligibility is definitely a huge plus and I could see someone taking him #1 overall or at least ahead of this next guy, but I had to go with the insanely long track record of excellence.

3. Albert Pujols (STL, 1B) – Even in the midst of what was considered a “down” year, Pujols was on pace for .279-36-95-110-11 before going down with a major injury.  In fact he was adding to his pace almost every day in June and it isn’t unreasonable to believe that he would have continued to stay hot and get back near the paces we are used to from Prince Albert.  Alas, Pete Kozma has no idea how to throw a ball.  Pujols has been knocked from his #1 perch, but I certainly wouldn’t blame someone for keeping him there, even at 32 years old.  He is as reliable as a player gets and even his “bad” year was a very good season (currently ranked 17th amongst hitters on ESPN’s Player Rater, 22nd overall) before it was derailed by a major injury.

2. Ryan Braun (MIL, OF) – I had Braun 5th coming into the season so this isn’t a major leap for the 27-year old outfielder who is kicking off his “prime” with a bang.  He is displaying some newly discovered speed that may or may not be totally legit, but regardless of that he earns this high ranking for his remarkable consistency, the same reason he check in 5th for me in 2010.  Remember the .500 SLG stat about Longoria?  The only reason Braun wasn’t on it is because he missed the threshold of 500 plate appearances by eight in his rookie year.  I think we can let him slide since he posted a .634 SLG that year.  Since then he has three straight years of 663 or more plate appearances with .500+ SLG (including seasons of .553 and .551).  It just doesn’t get much better or more reliable than Braun.  And given his age, there is reason to believe he can do more than the .307-32-105-99-16 average we have seen in his first four full seasons.

1. Miguel Cabrera (DET, 1B) – I don’t care if he plays the deepest position on the diamond, I am building my team around a guy who has seven straight years averaging .317-34-117-100 in 158 games.  And he is well on his way to an eighth season right in line with those averages.  During the stretch, he has been below the batting average mark just twice (.292, .294), the home runs three times (26, 33, 33), the RBIs three times (103, 112, 114) and the runs scored three times (85, 91, 96).  In other words, even when he strays from the average, he remains elite.  None of the deviations would leave fantasy owners disappointed in Cabrera even in the seasons where he combined two “below average” categories together.  He will be just 29 years old next year and with his ridiculously strong skills profile (he’s actually on a four year decline in strikeout rate from 22% in 2007 to 16% so far this year), I have him as the #1 overall pick for 2012.

I would love hear your thoughts on the rankings, if you thought there were snubs and who you’d take #1 if not Cabrera.  Leave your thoughts in the comments below.

Monday: 06.27.2011

The Top 15 for 2012 Right Now, Part I

The 2011 draft season was seen as one of transition for the upper tier of players as there wasn’t much agreement beyond the top two players on how the rest of the first round should play out.  Hell, there was even some dissent against Hanley Ramirez as the #2 (some had him #1, others had him #3 or #4), though that was more of a vocal minority.  He and Albert Pujols were pretty clearly the first two picks in most drafts.

After those two, any combination of about 15-18 names could make up the remaining 10  picks in the first round of a 12-team mixed league.  Expanding it to a 15-team league opens the pool up to about 20-24 names depending on the preference of the drafters in that league.  Now there is always going to be some shifting from draft to draft, but in 2011 you could see someone taken sixth overall in one league who wouldn’t crack the first round of another.

And the 2011 season isn’t likely to change things for the 2012 season.  Just as the MLB as a whole has tightened up with fewer great teams, so, too, has the player pool as there are now several guys in contention for the #1 spot with Pujols looking mortal throughout 2011 and now shelved for at least month, likely two.  Several contenders for #1 means a lot of uncertainty after that as you could feasibly have a draft where the top five teams all get their #1 guy; that certainly hasn’t been the case for several years.

Despite the clutter at the top, I am going to do my best to outline the top 15 as I see it for 2012 at this point.  This isn’t just going to be a ranking of the best players through nearly three months of 2011, that does us no good.  We have to take what we have seen so far and properly weigh it into the thoughts we had coming into the season about these players.  You have to be careful not to overrate or underrate the most recent season.

Jacoby Ellsbury was at worst a 2nd-round pick heading into 2010 after a pair of excellent seasons.  He sat out through most of an injury-riddled season during which he played just 18 games hitting .192 with a .485 OPS.  His skills hadn’t eroded, it was all injury.  I always say you can’t put a lot (any?) stock into Spring Training stats with the lone caveat being guys returning from injury.

The hard numbers still don’t mean a lot even in these cases, but you want to see that they are playing and appear as healthy as is being reported.  Ellsbury led the team in ST at-bats with 62 and performed really well suggesting he was ready to go.  Even still, he was going no earlier than the 4th round in most drafts.  Of course, Jose Bautista had a season for the ages in 2010 and he was going just a handful of picks before Ellsbury.

I understand the skepticism with Bautista and while I did believe he would remain a major force, I never saw him doing this.  I thought he could be a 37-42 HR hitter with a great on-base percentage and decent batting average.  I found the Ellsbury skepticism a  little more peculiar.  He had a track record of excellence, he had crept into first round consideration just a year ago and while he was injured throughout most of 2010, all signs pointed to a full rebound for 2011.

Those are two clear cases on each end of the spectrum, one overrating the most recent season and another underrating it.  If I had to do one, I would rather underrate the previous season as with someone like Bautista.  I don’t want to be in a position where I ignore or at least diminish a guy’s track record (whether it be Ellsbury, Matt Kemp or Jose Reyes) just because he didn’t exactly display those skills at their peak in the most recent season.

Let’s start with some honorable mentions.  I think it so tightly packed with the top 25 or so that you could reasonably make a case for any of these guys to be in the list of 15, alas they were just out of mine:

Rickie Weeks (MIL, 2B) – It has never really been a question of talent with Weeks, rather health and he is en route to a second straight healthy season which are producing the kind of numbers we had hoped to see in his early-to-mid 20s.  He might almost be a bit underrated at this point as people are still afraid of his given the health issues that plagued the early part of his career.

Drew Stubbs (CIN, OF) – He was one of those sleepers who got so much run that it almost sapped his sleeper value.  He will be a batting average black hole as long as he continues to pile up the strikeouts and this year’s pace is even crazier than last year’s 168 (tracking toward 214).  As such that puts his AVG & OBP at risk which in turn could cut into his runs scored and stolen bases adding risk despite the juicy fantasy numbers.  See also: Young, Chris B.

Nelson Cruz (TEX, OF) – He has top 10 talent when performing at his peak potential, but injuries have undercut that potential significantly and he just can’t be trusted for a full season of production.  He may also be running less as a means of body conservation (4 SB in ’11 after 20 & 17 the last two years).

Kevin Youkilis (BOS, 3B) – Another season in line with his 2008 & 2009 (his 2010 was injury-shortened) seasons with good power and excellent run-based stats thanks to being a part of that elite offense in Boston.  The dearth at 3B would probably be enough to boost him into the top 15 of OBP-leagues.

Curtis Granderson (NYY, OF) – As my favorite Tiger who has now become my favorite non-Tiger, I would love to believe blindly in this surge in performance, but I have to be realistic.  Many predicted a power spike for him in his new home environs last year, but injuries cut his season short for a career-low in games played.  He is making up for the lost time with a 45-home run pace in 2011.  I am not sure he will make that this year or become a consistent 40+ HR guy if he does keep this dream season going.  So while he does get elevated as compared to his 2010 preseason value, he’s not quite first round material even as a power-speed combo with plenty of lineup support for R and RBI.

Mark Teixeira (NYY, 1B) – The dissipation of the batting average that was present in his mid-to-late 20s pushes his value down a bit especially in the fantastically deep first base pool.  He hit .295 from 2004-2009 before hitting .256 a year ago and following it with a .244 mark so far this year.  Still, a lengthy track record 100+ runs scored and driven in with 30+ home run power (including a 48 HR pace so far this year) earn him consideration for an early round pick in any draft.

Mike Stanton (FLO, OF) – Sometimes I forgot that this guy is just 21 years old.  That’s insane when you consider his talent.  The growth of players this young is not linear so we can’t guarantee he will show more development year over year, just ask Justin Upton, but still it is nice to see incremental improvement in strikeout (down 3% to 31%) and walk (up slightly from 8.6% to 9.3%) rates this year.  He will be a high draft pick throughout 2012, but he’s not quite first rounder for me.

Andrew McCutchen (PIT, OF) – He’s a better Drew Stubbs, way better in fact, trading a bit of speed for stronger foundational skills (strikeout & walk rates).  He is also hitting in the middle of the lineup for the Pirates so his RBI opportunities are much greater than Stubbs and as the Pirates continue to improve he will has some 100-RBI seasons.  Until that point, he is just outside the top 15, but another big season jumps him up from the 35-45 range he occupied this preseason.

Jay Bruce (CIN, OF) – Another player on the rise, Bruce offers incredible power potential and should see his value come up from the 65-75 range he was in this past year.  Some wonder if his .281 batting average from 2010 is a peak, while others believe he can be a .300 hitter one day without affecting his power.  Though it will be his fifth season, he will be just 25 years old next year and the best of Bruce may still be on the way.

Joey Votto (CIN, 1B) – This is less an indictment on Votto and more a commentary on the depth of quality players.  I was really high on him for 2010 and it paid off even more than I expected with the 37 home runs which were propped up by an unsustainable HR/FB of 25%.  Given that, I couldn’t understand why people saw him as high as the 3rd or 4th overall pick.  His ADP ended up in the 7-10 area, but I think he is a bit lower than that for 2012.  Barring unpredictable HR/FB surges, he is a high-20s/low-30s home run hitter.  He makes up for the power deficiency with a great batting average (career .314) and the chance of some speed (which could dry up if he doesn’t improve his 60% success rate this year).  That is still worth an early round pick, but not a first rounder.

Justin Upton (ARI, OF) – Upton has an absurd amount of talent, but we have yet to see it all come together.  We could be seeing most of it this year, but if he stays healthy for the whole year, it will be a first.  He has played 108, 138 and 133 games in his first three full seasons with varying degrees of success yielding 106, 129 and 110 OPS+ marks.  He has a .300-20-20 season in there, but he has yet to top 90 runs scored or driven in (which isn’t all his fault as those are team-dependent) and he is only pace to check the runs scored one off of his list this year.  He is a huge name, a great centerpiece for a dynasty team (23 years old) and loaded with potential, but he hasn’t yet earned my trust as a bona fide first round fantasy pick.

Those are the guys who just missed.  I’ll break this up into two parts to keep the length reasonable.  Up next is the top 15 for 2012… at this point.  Subject to change before the 2012 season starts.

Wednesday: 06.1.2011

With the 30th Pick in the MLB Restart Draft, Doug Glanville Selects…

When I first heard of the Franchise Player Draft at ESPN, I was intrigued by the idea.  To be honest, I only heard about in passing on Tuesday and knew it was going to be released to the public on Wednesday with a chat to discuss the picks.

If you’re unfamiliar with it, basically they took 30 members somehow tied to baseball whether writers, reporters, talking heads, analysts, etc… and did a one round draft under the premise of “If you were starting a franchise from scratch, you would take…” and they eliminated financial concerns from the equation.  Of course it is tough to think of players independent of their current financial and team control situations.

On the whole, it’s a pretty innocuous exercise that can be fun to discuss and think about on your own and wonder who you might take if you were given the chance to make a pick.  At least it’s better than those fake press conferences they used to do years ago.  Unfortunately, Doug Glanville had to ruin it.  There are more than 30 great players in baseball for whom you could make a case as a franchise starter, so there were going to be snubs regardless, but Glanville made a joke of the whole thing.

Let me say up front that I quite like Glanville.  I have his book in queue to read on my iPad later this summer, I like that he is a huge Strat-o-Matic fan (a recently adopted hobby of mine that has actually cut into my book reading in the last two months) and I respect his thoughts and opinions on the game.  The Penn educated former outfielder is no dummy and he knows and loves this great game.

All of that said, his pick in this draft was stupid.  It’s 100% indefensible and makes absolutely no sense no matter how you slice it.  With the 30th pick in this draft he took Washington Nationals catcher Wilson Ramos.  Say what???  Glanville is the only person in the world who would start a major league franchise with Wilson Ramos.  Wilson Ramos’ mom wouldn’t take him with her first pick.  Ramos probably wouldn’t take himself if he was player/GM of a franchise.

Glanville’s rationale for the pick was that he wanted an up-the-middle presence to be the foundation of his team.  See?  I told you he was smart.  That is smart thinking.  If you’re building a team from the ground up, you want the best players you can get at catcher, shortstop, centerfield and second base.  Of course, his execution of an otherwise smart plan was an egregious misfire.  Ramos isn’t a complete shlub of player, he would eventually get drafted if this thing went several rounds, but there is no way he is the 30th guy off the board.

My first thought when I saw Glanville’s pick and justification was “I can think of 50 players of the top of my head, fulfilling his up-the-middle desires, that I would take ahead of Ramos.  And I could no doubt reach 200 if I veered from the middle of the field strategy instead just going for the best player.”  Alas, I went with my first thought and began punching up the 50 names.  Here are my results:

Ranked in Order of Preference by Position

I’m not trying to be smug or arrogant when I say coming up with that list wasn’t hard at all.  I also want to be clear that I wouldn’t necessarily take all 50 of those players with the #30 overall pick in a draft like this just that I would take every single of them over Ramos.  Ramos is a three time top-100 prospect with a reasonably bright future and the Twins would kill to have him back (they’d trade 3 Matt Cappses at this point), but there is simply ZERO justification for Glanville making that pick.  It’s like when someone takes their 10th-13th round sleeper in round 4 of a fantasy draft.  Sure, the player isn’t a completely worthless bum or anything, but there was no need to take him there as he’d have been available several rounds later even as a reach.

The clear #1 on that list of 50 for me is Andrew McCutchen.  He meets the up-the-middle criteria, he’s young and he’s also a very good hitter with across-the-board production.  Who would I have picked regardless of position had I been in that #30 spot?  You’ll have to wait until tomorrow for that.  I’m going to post my top 30 picks for this kind of draft.


Monday: 08.11.2008

The Next Tier: 2009

I woke up to a couple of emails asking me who’s knocking on the door of the first round, so I’ll cover a second group that I really like again in 2009. It is another group of 12 that could represent the second round, but they won’t be in any particular order. (Note: no pitchers are included as I usually leave them to their own listing. When I do a composite Top 50 or 100, pitchers will be included)

The guy mentioned all but once in the six emails I received about the list was Matt Holliday and I completely understand. The guy is a beast, but the uncertainty surrounding his whereabouts for 2009 have me reticent to place him in that first tier. From 2005-2007, the difference in OPS between home & away was almost 300 points. This year, it’s just over 200. He’s hardly a shmuck outside of Coors Field, but he definitely gains a boatload of his value from making his home there. If and when he’s guaranteed to play 2009 in Coors Field, he’ll jump into that top level.

Many are quick to say Lance Berkman can’t sustain what he is doing this year, but I don’t believe that to be true. First of all, he’s well off of his torrid pace from the late spring/early summer so he’s pacing to a .333-128-31-109-20 season right now. The speed is only real anomaly in this bunch and it’d be wise to pay for a max of 10 steals and enjoy anything else as gravy. Meanwhile the rest of the stat line is plenty attainable. With one home run and five double since the All-Star Break, it is looking like the Home Run Derby has claimed another victim. He’s a bankable .300-100-30-100 and that’s very valuable.

Speaking of reliable numbers, Berkman’s teammate Carlos Lee is as steady as they get. The speed dipped a bit this season, but prior to 2008 he had logged five straight double-digit SB seasons. Meanwhile, there probably isn’t a steadier .300-100-30-100 trend-line on the market. He will turn 33 during next season, but age doesn’t sap the skills he has proven to own since joining the elite ranks.

Basically an outfield version of Brandon Phillips right down to the inability to take a walk, Corey Hart is another across-the-board talent you love to have in your lineup. Some plate patience would give him several more chances on base to push that stolen base total above 30. He will be 26-years old at the beginning of next season, his third full one in the majors, and he should be ready to bust out completely.

Are you getting tired of seeing five category guys yet? Sorry, I just love laying the foundation for a fantasy team by getting a good bit of everything. Nick Markakis is on pace to raise his OPS by nearly 40 points from last year by season’s end and the huge increase in plate discipline (already more walks than all of last season) points to a superstar in the making. He will be 25-years old next year and he might be ready to reach that 30-home run plateau. Keeper league rebuilders would be well-served to do all they can to make Markakis their anchor.

It’s impossible not to be disappointed by the utter collapse of B.J. Upton‘s power this season. In his final season of second base-eligibility, many believed a 30-home run season was in order after he whacked 24 in 474 at-bats last year. Instead, he’s become a punchless speed demon showing a surprising amount of plate patience. He could top 50 stole bases, but will struggle to reach double digits in home runs while almost assuredly walking 100+ times. I think lingering shoulder pain has sapped his power and it won’t fully return until 2009. He will turn 24 in 10 days and should be undervalued heading into 2009. A 20-30 season is very possible.

It is tough to follow up a 50-home run/119-RBI season and barring a huge August/September surge, Prince Fielder‘s encore will be somewhere in the 35-95 range. Make no mistake that there is nothing wrong with that, but undoubtedly a disappointment to his fantasy owners. He is just getting going though and if his value takes even the slightest bump due to this season, then you need to be ready to pounce. He has similar run production to Ryan Howard without being the horrific batting average anchor.

There was/is no bigger bust in 2008 than the reigning National League MVP, Jimmy Rollins. Like Upton, his power disappeared. Unlike Upton, he has a much stronger track record of the power making the disappearance more startling. He, again like Upton, is almost assuredly playing through nagging injuries that go unnoticed by the fans yet tremendously impact a player’s numbers. His speed hasn’t faded and he hit .286 or better in every month except June so you can be confident in a 2009 rebound. He is another former first rounder that is almost sure to be undervalued which just creates a great opportunity for his 2009 owners. Don’t be the shortsighted one at the table that focuses too heavily on a disappointing 2008 campaign.

His first season in his “prime” didn’t go according to plan for Carl Crawford and now he’s going to miss some time with a hand injury further damaging his 2008 totals. His problem this year were the declines in speed and average. He doesn’t blow you away with his R, HR and RBI totals, but the given 50-.300 is where sets himself apart. Even if he were playing, he was only pacing to 34-.273. That Rays offense should get even better in 2009 and Crawford will be a beneficiary as well as a catalyst to that success. He might not be a 50-base stealer anymore, but he could be headed for 100 runs, 20 home runs and 100 runs batted in if he settles in at the 3-hole behind Upton and ahead of Evan Longoria.

Don’t tell Adrian Gonzalez that he plays in a pitcher’s paradise. Enjoying a breakout season this year, Gonzalez is establishing himself as a reliable .285-30-100 first baseman despite playing half of his games in the cavernous Petco Park. Granted, he does a lot more damage on the road so you could only imagine what he’d be if he played in a neutral or hitter-friendly yard. He’ll be 27 early in the 2009 season and he isn’t terribly flashy, but his kind of consistency is great as he has one sub-.800 OPS month in his past seven and just four in his last 15. The potential for 35-120 is there as his 2008 pace shows, but the lack of a huge downside gives him underrated appeal.

My pick for the 2008 NL MVP was shipped back to the AL before he had a chance to make a miraculous run to prove me right, but Mark Teixeira is another reliable that does pretty darn well even in “disappointment” seasons. Everyone is waiting for the 40-home run season again and he would have likely given us another one last year had he been able to get the 644 at-bats he had during the 43-HR campaign of 2005, but his 30-105 in less than 500 at-bats was sufficient. Two common themes amongst this group have been 5-category guys and reliable production. Big Teix is the latter to the point where you can add .285-100-30-100 to your team’s bottom line once you acquire him. He is even a bigger stud in OBP leagues because he knows how to draw a walk.

I have gone round and round with myself about whether to put Derrek Lee, Carlos Beltran or somebody else all together here in the last spot. I know Lee isn’t a 40-home run hitter like his 2005 season, but at this point I’m not sure he’s a 30-home run hitter, either. Meanwhile, Beltran is pacing for a huge power drop in 2008. He is 11 off of his 2007 total despite almost 70 more at-bats. When you’re putting up 35-25 or 40-20, it’s easy to overlook a .275 batting average, but not when you’re headed for 20-25. If Milton Bradley could stay healthy, I would have no reservations about putting him here… alas he can’t. If we were talking strictly OBP leagues, entertaining the idea of Pat Burrell or Adam Dunn here would be a no-brainer… alas we’re not. I’ll go with someone I advocated heavily this past off-season, Alfonso Soriano. At 32, he is hardly old and his pace of .299-70-28-76-15 in 399 at-bats is just amazing. Hitting leadoff eats into the RBI totals, but it is tough to find flaws in 100-30-80-25.


Tuesday: 06.6.2006

Andrew Miller, LHP – Detroit Tigers

North Carolina left-hander Andrew Miller was expected to become the newest Kansas City Royal as they held the first pick in the 2006 Amateur Draft. His stock dropped significantly with some boards having him fall as far as 11th to Arizona. Instead, the Detroit Tigers used their #6 pick to select the southpaw. Here is a snippet of the Baseball premium content scouting report on Miller:

1. Andrew Miller, lhp (National rank: 1)
School: North Carolina. Class: Jr.
Hometown: Gainesville, Fla.
B-T: R-L. Ht.: 6-6. Wt.: 210. Birthdate: 5/21/85.
Scouting Report: Miller entered this spring as the top-rated prospect for the 2006 draft and proceeded to live up to that lofty billing. The top unsigned player from the 2003 draft, when he was a third-round pick of the Devil Rays out of high school in Gainesville, Fla., Miller wound up at North Carolina and has improved every season, becoming more consistent and more dominant. He dominated in the wood-bat Cape Cod League each of the last two summers (2.03 ERA in 2004, 1.65 ERA in 2005 for Chatham) and was rated as the league's top prospect by Baseball America in both years…

As much as I would've liked to see the Tigers get Drew Stubbs, this was based on Miller being gone. I'm thrilled with the potential of this number one pick. Here is a list of the other Tigers picks:

50th pick – Ronald Bourquin, 3B, Ohio State
82nd pick – Brennan Boesch, CF, UC Berkley
112th pick – Ryan Strieby, 1B, Kentucky
142nd pick – Scott Sizemore, 2B, Virginia Commonwealth
172nd pick – Jordan Newton, C, Western Kentucky

Bourquin was rated as the 8th best player available from the state of Ohio, a 5-star state.
Boesch was rated as the 21st best player available from the state of California, a 3-star state.
Strieby was rated as the 3rd best player available from the state of Kentucky, a 3-star state.
Sizemore was rated as the 3rd best player available from the state of Virginia, a 2-star state.
Newton was rated as the best player available from the state of Kentucky & 149th overall, a 3-star state.

The rankings and state star ratings are from Baseball America, as well. Here is a legend regarding the star system:

***** One for the books
**** Banner year
*** Solid, not spectacular
** Not up to par
* Nothing to see here

Last 10 #1 Overall Picks:
2006 — Luke Hochevar, rhp (Kansas City Royals)
2005 — Justin Upton, ss (Arizona Diamondbacks)
2004 — Matt Bush, ss (San Diego Padres)
2003 — Delmon Young, of (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
2002 — Bryan Bullington, rhp (Pittsburgh Pirates)
2001 — Joe Mauer, c (Minnesota Twins)
2000 — Adrian Gonzalez, 1b (Florida Marlins)
1999 — Josh Hamilton, rf-lhp (Tampa Bay Devil Rays)
1998 — Pat Burrell, 3b (Philadelphia Phillies)
1997 — Matt Anderson, rhp (Detroit Tigers)

Monday: 06.5.2006

Homestand Complete; Out of Town for 6.

At 4-6, I simply cannot deem the 10-game homestand a success. Playing two of the best teams in the American League, New York and Boston after three games with Cleveland, I was really hoping the team would make a statement. Or should I say, a positive statement. That said, the team did distance themselves a bit more from the Chicago White Sox, who were busy going 3-7 on their road trip. A three-game set with them starting Tuesday will give the team a chance to separate even further from the Sox. After Chicago, the team heads to Toronto to face the high-octane offense of the Blue Jays. On the heels of the disappointment at home, these next six games are at least as important if not more so than the 10 previous. Both teams are capable of taxing a pitching staff and these two lineups will provide the staff a perfect opportunity to show just how good they really are this season. Ranks are in the American League:

Team Runs Rank AVG Rank OBP Rank SLG Rank OPS Rank HR Rank Runs/G
Chicago 306 4th 0.276 6th 0.349 5th 0.465 2nd 0.816 4th 81 t1st 5.56
Toronto 317 3rd 0.303 1st 0.365 3rd 0.503 1st 0.868 1st 81 t1st 5.87

Detroit nemesis, Jim Thome was able to impose his will on the team in the first series between the teams this year. He was 5-for-11 with three home runs and five runs batted posting a disgusting .455/.571/1.455 line. That’s a 2.026 OPS!!!!! For his career, he has 45 home runs and 100 RBIs in 131 games vs. Detroit.

Toronto’s best hitter, Vernon Wells, has not been nearly as strong against the Tigers with a .270/.290/.405 line in 33 games. He has four home runs and 18 runs batted in. That said, he is in the midst of a career-year and on pace for 44 home runs. With him comes American League batting leader Alex Rios (.360). Rios is having a breakout season in this, his third season. Sample size caveats apply heavily, but Rios has had his way with the Tigers in seven games going .429/.448/.679 with two home runs and six RBIs. The Toronto hit parade doesn’t stop there. Troy Glaus has returned to the American League on fire. His 17 home runs so far have him on pace for 50 this season. Against the Tigers, he has 12 in 52 games while with the Anaheim Angels. After the series with Detroit, only his former AL West opponents will have a thicker book on Glaus than the Tigers. At-bats against:

Team AB
OAK 329
TEX 300
SEA 292
TOR 209
DET 203

Of the two, the White Sox have a significantly better pitching staff with the Blue Jays’ team ERA among the league’s worst at 4.85 (9th in AL). What they lack in run prevention, the Blue Jays make up in ability to exploit Detroit’s weakness, strikeouts. Detroit’s 400 strikeouts are most in the American League. The Jays strike out 6.3 per nine while the Sox are at 5.5.

Toronto has the best single pitcher of the two teams in Roy Halladay, but the Tigers will miss him as he is scheduled to go June 8th in Baltimore. The second-best, Chicago’s Mark Buehrle will also be missed having pitched Sunday against Texas. Toronto also features one of the league’s best closers. Only the outgoing Jonathan Papelbon from the Red Sox has been better than the Jays’ B.J. Ryan.

For this road trip to be success, a winning record is in order. Two series victories would be excellent for team as they would have momentum coming home to face the Tampa Bay Devil Rays for four before a giant interleague stretch against the National League Central.

Random Notes:
Jim Leyland was not very happy with Todd Jones‘ decision to call catcher Vance Wilson out to the mound during Friday’s meltdown. See John Lowe’s article at the Free Press website.

-As a Texas graduate, I’d be thrilled if the Tigers took Drew Stubbs with their first pick during Tuesday’s draft. At least one mock draft (that of BA’s Jim Callis) I saw had him slotted to the Tigers at #6. In a subscriber-only piece at Baseball America, Stubbs receives mixed reviews. He draws comparisons to Rocco Baldelli, Torii Hunter, Mike Cameron & Preston Wilson. He is regarded as the “toolsiest player” in the draft thus the comparisons to Baldelli. His tools+strikeouts combination conjure thoughts of the other three. A clip from the piece: “One scouting director said the decision offers two possibilities, both of which frightened him: He’d be scared to draft Stubbs too high because of what Stubbs can’t do, but he’d also be scared to pass on him because of what he can do and might do down the road.” Here are his numbers in three years with the Longhorns:

2006 62 0.342 0.439 0.580 12 60 41 26
2005 72 0.311 0.384 0.527 11 71 32 32
2004 71 0.301 0.372 0.474 8 75 28 28

-Speaking of the draft, top pick possibility Andrew Miller wears his hat like a dork:

Chris Spurling was optioned back to Toledo after Sunday’s game as Jason Beck reports.

-The Arizona Diamondbacks, powered by my choice for NL Cy Young Brandon Webb, are playing .600 ball right now! Eight regular hitters are hitting .291 or better and only catcher Johnny Estrada (.335 OBP) is getting on less than 34% of the time.

Albert Pujols is out indefinitely and headed to the disabled list with a muscle strain perhaps derailing what was shaping up to be one of the best offensive performances in baseball history. He was on pace to hit 72 home runs with 188 runs batted in and a .307/.441/.748 line.