Posts tagged ‘Alex Avila’

Friday: 02.8.2013

Top 10 C – Review

Last Friday night, MLB Network unleashed their Top 10 First Basemen Right Now along with input from host Brian Kenny, former MLB catcher Dave Valle, and special guest Bill James. There was no list from Kenny this time around because he usually shares his on his show Clubhouse Confidential and unless I missed an episode, I haven’t seen one from him. So we’ve got the two guests and The Shredder, which is MLBN’s “objective” system that allegedly just uses the raw data of recent history to project 2013. The Starting Pitcher list for 2013 told me all I needed to know about its objectivity, though. There’s no way it’s simply processing data to come up with its list.

Here are all three lists from MLB Network-related folks and then I’ll address them separately:

top10Clists

The Shredder

There is no real way to justify Carlos Ruiz at three prior to his offseason news, but then when you factor in his 25-game suspension, it just makes no sense. As with first base, there isn’t too much disagreement among the actual guys who belong in the top 10, just slotting. At some positions, I had three or four different than some of the lists, but the max is two at catcher. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised that Buster Posey swept first place, but he really shouldn’t have since we are judging the best catcher. Yadier Molina is a significantly better catcher than Posey and he played nearly 200 more innings at the position than him. Posey outdid him offensively, but part of that advantage is mitigated by the fact that he played 29 games at first (and raked). In fairness, he still outhit Yadi in his catcher-only numbers, but that’s where the defense comes in.

Salvador Perez at six and more importantly ahead of Matt Wieters makes little sense to me, too. Wieters hasn’t hit like we expected when he was in the minors, but he’s better than Perez at this juncture.

My inclusion they didn’t have: Brian McCann

Dave Valle

I thought he too overrated Ruiz and not including Carlos Santana annoyed me a bit (though he isn’t particularly good at actually catching which I’m sure bothers Valle a good bit as a former catcher himself), but NO JOE MAUER???? Not at all? OK, his caught stealing rate was awful this year at 14 percent and he only played half of his games at catcher, but doesn’t the offense as a catcher at least merit a top 10 slotting?

My inclusions he didn’t have: Mauer, Santana

Bill James

This might be the first James list that didn’t have at least one head-scratcher selection. Well actually, A.J. Pierzynski is pretty close to that. He’s terrible at catching and James of all people can’t possibly believe his 2012 is a new level of performance that will be maintained. And he obviously cares about defense because I’m assuming Ryan Hanigan’s MLB-best 48 percent CS rate is the only reason he made the list.

My inclusions he didn’t have: Perez, Alex Avila

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Friday: 02.1.2013

Top 10 Catchers Right Now

Tonight MLB Network will continue the 2013 iteration of their “Top 10 Right Now” series at each position capped off with a “Top 100 Overall*”. They will air both the catcher and first base shows on Friday evening. I always enjoy this series and generally look forward to it after the New Year since I eat up just about any fresh baseball content I can as we wait for pitchers & catchers to report. Instead of putting up my lists after they air their selections, I’ll post mine ahead of time and then compare notes after the shows air.

*I will not be doing a top 100

This is not a fantasy list!!

I didn’t really have anyone that I fretted over leaving off. Wilin Rosario doesn’t actually play catcher so his hitting exploits would have to be about 2x what they are currently. OK, he puts on the equipment and positions himself behind home plate, but to say he plays catcher is an insult to even the worst of defenders behind the dish, let alone the best.

Jonathan LuCroy was probably closest, but he was beat out by another guy who played under 100 games last year as I expect this guy to top LuCroy in 2013.

THE LIST

10. Salvador Perez (KC) – There is a lot of speculation on this one as Perez has just 115 games played in his major league career, but part of these lists is projected 2013 performance and I’m expecting a nice year from him which should be his first full season. Despite the small sample of work, he has shown a lot. He has shown legitimate power (.471 slugging percentage & 14 HR), a strong hit tool (.311 batting average), and an ability to make adjustments as he dropped his strikeout rate from 12.7 percent in 2011 to 8.9 last year. The Royals no doubt see the potential signing him to a 5-year, $7 million dollar deal before last year which includes options for 2018 and 2019 which will be remarkably affordable (at $5 and $6 MM, respectively) if he continues at the trajectory we’ve seen early one.

9. Carlos Ruiz (PHI) – He is on the shelf for the first month of the season serving a 25-game suspension for banned substances which is unfortunate as he looks to follow-up his breakout 2012. Of course, he put together his .325/.394/.540 line in 114 games last year so missing 25 doesn’t necessarily preclude him from repeating. Suspension or not, the big question is whether or not his spike in HR/FB rate (from 4.4 in ’11 to 15.1 last year) is legitimate and thus will sustain his 16-homer output. That’s huge spike especially in light of his flyball percentage shrinking five percent.

8. Brian McCann (ATL) – The latest news has McCann’s shoulder feeling better and gives him a shot to be ready by Opening Day. Last year was an unmitigated disaster given his standard of excellence as he played a career-low 121 games with a paltry 87 OPS+ output. He kept his 20+ HR streak intact, but that was probably the only positive point in his season. This ranking takes the injury concerns into consideration as he’d be much higher without them.

7. Alex Avila (DET) – Avila labored through a tough season after a huge 2011 breakout as nagging injuries hampered him from day one. Most catchers are usually dealing with an ailment or three by the time Spring Training hits the one-week mark, but Avila seemed to suffer more than his fair share and lower body ones to his hamstring and knee held his power numbers down quite a bit. Despite the injuries, he was still above average offensively and an offseason rest should help him chase down those 2011 numbers again in 2013.

6. Carlos Santana (CLE) – A rough start to 2012 didn’t stop Santana from putting together an excellent season and the only thing keeping him this low is that he’s not a particularly great catcher defensively. I wrote about him in detail in my Countdown to Spring Training series if you’re interested in more.

5. Joe Mauer (MIN) – He still played the majority of his games at catcher and after an ugly half-season in 2011, his numbers returned to what we expect from Mauer (unless you’re still expecting 2009, in which case just stop). He’s still an excellent player even if he spends most of his time at first base or DH, but he’s not a good defensive catcher so he can only be ranked so high as we move into the elite who combine offense and defense.

4. Matt Wieters (BAL) – He’s yet to become the offensive juggernaut we expected when he was coming up through the minors, but that hasn’t stopped him from rounding into one of the best catchers in all of baseball. The defensive piece is in place and I wouldn’t be surprised to see his offensive game take off in these final three years of his 20s.

3. Miguel Montero (ARI) – Like Santana, Montero didn’t sprint out of the gate in 2012, but that couldn’t deter him from a great season at the dish and he pairs that bat with great work behind the dish. In fact, he has improved a ton when it comes to shutting down the running game the last few years. After posting a 26 percent caught stealing rate in his first full season back in 2009, he has since posted rates of 31, 40, and 42 percent. The 42 percent a year ago was the third-best in baseball. He is really one of the best overall catchers in the game and yet doesn’t get nearly enough credit as such. I will be especially interested to see where he rates on the lists tonight.

2. Buster Posey (SF) – How much can really be said about this reigning NL MVP that hasn’t been said yet? His 2010 was a precursor to his excellence which was delayed a year by his injury in 2011. Those who were worried that the injury might take some time coming back from were shown the door immediately as Posey ripped the league apart for a 1016 OPS in April. But it was his second half of the year that really earned him the MVP as he posted a 1023 or better OPS in each month with 21 RBIs per month and his .364 average in September was his worst from July on as he hit a combined .371 in the three months.

1. Yadier Molina (StL) – This shouldn’t be too much of a shock. Sure, Posey won the MVP, but he also played 29 games at first base and Molina was a legitimate candidate finishing 4th in the voting. Long regarded as the unquestioned best defender in baseball, Molina’s offensive outburst the last two years puts him in the discussion as the single best player in the game if you were talking about building a team from scratch.

Monday: 07.18.2011

Sunday Twidbits: July 17th

Here are this week’s MLB Sunday Twidbits which is something I’ll be doing every Sunday throughout the baseball season.  It’s an exercise whereby I tour the league giving a statistical tidbit per team on Twitter feed (@sporer).  Sometimes a team or two will get more than one if I have more than one nugget I really want to share, but every team will be represented at least once.  Check the sidebar on the right for previous editions of Twidbits.

CWS – Juan Pierre is hitting .330 the last calendar month & .300 the last 2 months. He was just 5-for-12 w/SBs in Apr, but 10-for-13 since.

CWS2 – On his July pace (4 SB in 12 G), Pierre would steal 22 more bases this yr; his value has stabilized. Buy if you need speed.

Det – Protection or regression? Alex Avila has a .161/.366/.258 in 11 July gms w/Raburn (.607 OPS), Inge (.492) & Kelly (.631) behind him.

Det2 – Avila (cont.) It’s a pretty tiny sample & protection is largely overrated, but Avila’s 9 BB & gm tapes show he’s being pitched around.

Was – Just six of Henry Rodriguez‘s 27 appearances have seen him go without a K. He has 34 in 31 IP; a nice MR option if you’re heavy on IP.

Atl – Freddie Freeman is rewarding patience hitting .289/.385/.567 w/7 HR & 22 RBI in his last calendar month & .307/.367/.524 in his last 2.

Atl2 – Freeman (cont.) On May 17th, Freeman was hitting .226/.321/.358 with just 4 HRs. I may have misjudged Mr. Freeman.

LAA – Walden has straightened out after a rough end of June & I think he will be fine, but Rich Thompson might be worth speculating on.

LAA2 – Thompson (cont.) He has 10.3 K/9 in 35 IP & he’s not Fernando Rodney. Scott Downs might be primary option, but he is their lefty RP ace.

Oak – He’s a perpetual injury risk, but Joey Devine is pitching well & could get work if another inj. risk Andrew Bailey goes down or gets traded.

Oak2 – Devine (cont.) He is getting over back spasms, but has a 2.14 ERA, 1.05 WHIP & 8.1 K/9 in 21 IP otherwise.

Oak3 – Josh Willingham (own rates: E 17%, C 34%, Y! 7%) could be dealt out of OAK which would instantly raise his value as a pwr source. Buy.

StL – Kyle Lohse has allowed <4 ER just 2x in last 7 (5.62 ERA in 42 IP) w/an UGLY 3.4 K/9. The pumpkin metamorphosis is in full force. Sell. NOW!

Cin – Ramon Hernandez sputtered a bit from mid-May to mid-June (.250, 1 HR, 3 RBI in 52 AB), but has rebounded (.327, 3 HR, 8 RBI) in last mo.

Cin2 – Hernandez (cont.) For some reason, he is very much available w/ownership rates of 17% in ESPN, 25% in Y! & 35% in CBS. Buy.

Bos – Thru 4 GS, Andrew Miller had a 3.57 ERA, but a 1.57 ERA & near 1:1 K:/B (13/11). That was v. SD, HOU, PIT & BAL-4 weaker tms.

Bos2 – Miller (cont.) Latest start v. TB came to a head: 7 ER, 2.7 IP. I never believed & 3 K in his last 3 GS assures I never will. Cut. Avoid.

TB – Sharp in his last 3 (1.96 ERA, 1.2 WHIP, 6.0 K/9, 3.0 K/BB in 18 IP), Alex Cobb has been recalled, has AL-only value immed. Monitor in mixed

Phi – Dom Brown has some post-hype sleeper value ROTW. Hit the Mendoza Line on 6/23; since-.315/.403/.407 w/12 R. Legit Pwr/Spd capability, too.

NYM – Hope you jumped on Twidbit “recommendee” Bobby Parnell a few wks back! Enough back-patting. BTW, still seeing Jonathon Niese available all over.

NYM2 – Niese (cont.) I’ll defer to this week’s Trolling the Wire for more on Niese. Buy.

NYY – In early June, Brett Gardner was on pace for 28 SBs, but he has 16 in June & July for total of 26. Great trade target if there’s need for speed. Buy.

Tor – Of course if Gardner is too expensive & you don’t need the AVG & R he brings, then you might be able to get Rajai Davis for free on some wires.

Tor2 – Rajai (cont.) He has rebounded from his horrible June (3 SB in 27 G) notching 7 SB in 14 G so far. PT is tight in TOR OF, but Davis hasn’t felt it yet.

Pit – If I’m going to back-pat when Twids hits one, gotta point out the reverse. Alex Presley was given just a tepid endorsement after Tabata injury.

Pit2 – Presley (cont.) Xavier Paul has been nicked & Garrett Jones hasn’t hit; Presley is hitting .343/.400/.522 w/4 SB, 12 R & 9 RBI. Pwr driven by 3 3B.

Pit3 – Presley (cont.) He is making a bid to take some (if not most) of Jones’ PT when Tabata returns.

Hou – Jeff Keppinger got a late start to his season (5/27), but he is AVG asset if standings are tight in that cat. Empty avg, but viable at 2B.

Cle – Michael Brantley is on pace for .276, 91 R, 21 SB, 10 HR, 65 RBI yet still has availability at all 3 outlets (Y! 42%, E 74%, C 83%). Buy.

Cle2 – Carlos Carrasco was dropped en masse after 2-start hiccup. Solid bounceback @ BAL. A matchup play who is rosterable in many formats.

Bal – Zach Britton has a 2.35 ERA & 1.12 WHIP after 10 starts, but meager 4.9 K/9 & 1.7 K/BB rates said “SELL!”; since: 6.86 ERA & 1.77 WHIP in 39 IP.

Bal2 – Britton (cont.) Oddly enough, his K/9 has risen to 6.7 during the skid, but still-awful 1.6 K/BB has been his undoing regardless of missed bats.

Flo – Doubt Leo Nunez will be dealt, but if so then Steve Cishek could get a look. Has 23 K in 22 IP  w/just 5 BB (4.6 K/BB). Deep speculation.

Flo2 – Did you cut losses on Hanley Ramirez? Hope not. Last month: .364/.451/.602 w/5 HR, 24 RBI, 19 R, 5 SB (0 CS). Might salvage after all.

Chc – Geovany Soto‘s stock has tumbled everywhere except CBS (78% owned), but 3 HR in last month boost value. Could hit 7-10 HR from C ROTW.

KC – Eric Hosmer is on a lot of re-draft wires, but K% & pwr improvement during mini-surge could reintroduce viability as CI/U type. Monitor.

Min – Brian Duensing surging w/2.70 ERA & 1.24 WHIP in last 50 IP, but 4.16 & 3.91 xFIP in Jun & Jul suggest caution. Sell in AL, Replace in mixed

Min2 – Similarly Carl Pavano on fire w/2.82 ERA & 1.12 WHIP in 61 IP, but 3.63 & 3.66 xFIP last 2 mo is worrisome. Elevated LOB% is the major aid.

Mil – HRs (2.4 per9) & BBs (4.5 per9) plaguing Shaun Marcum in last 6; could be tied to nagging injuries. I’d buy if discount is there as hip/neck are fine.

Col – Chris Iannetta has big H/R split, but flailing in Coors now, too. Since June he has 53 PA H & R: .244 & 1 HR @ hm; .143 & 2 HR on rd. Pass.

Col2 – Iannetta (cont.) Names who could be available to replace him: Mike Napoli, Ramon Hernandez, Geovany Soto, Wilson Ramos & Jonathan LuCroy.

Tex – Neftali Feliz thru 2 mo w/9 K, 14 BB in 19 IP. OH NOES! Since: 17 K, 4 BB in 18 IP. Closers are volatile, be patient w/proven ones (Marmol).

Sea – Is Blake Beavan latest useful SEA SP? Not yet: 2.70 ERA & 0.95 WHIP are “supported” by 3.6 K/9 (vomit!). It’s ALL the .190 BABIP & 89% LOB%.

SF – Madison Bumgarner has rebounded from 0.3 IP/8 ER meltdown throwing 26 IP w/2.73 ERA & 1.14 WHIP as well as sparkling 30 to 3 K/BB. Buy.

SD – Dustin Moseley has K’d >3 just four times in 18 starts which is why he has a weak 1.7 K/BB despite solid 2.9 BB/9. Pass. Drop. Cut. Never.

LAD – Longshot to close again, but Kenley Jansen has 11 scoreless IP since MLB return w/16 K. His 6 BB are still an issue 3 H says stuff is back.

Ari – Josh Collmenter‘s really lacked of Ks early (5 in first 16 IP as SP), but 6.7 K/9 & 2.7 K/BB rates since 5/29 are intriguing. Monitor.

Wednesday: 05.18.2011

We’re Going Streaking!

Carlos Pena is in the midst of one of his famous Pena Power Pushes with five home runs in his last 12 games.  He has a .368/.490/.789 line during the stretch with 9 R, 11 RBI and 10 BB.  I’m sure many of his fantasy league owners didn’t get all of or any of this stretch as they were frustrated by the .157/.286/.171 line prior to the run.

Of course if you know anything about Pena then you know you have to sit through these kind of slumps so if you draft him then the onus is on you to practice extreme levels of patience.  Since emerging as a prolific and consistent power hitter in 2007, he has been possibly the streakiest home run hitter in the game.

  • He had 10 streaks of 10+ games without a home run from 2007-2010:
    • 10 – 3 times
    • 11 – 2 times
    • 12 – 2 times
    • 13 – 1 time
    • 18 – 1 time
    • 19 – 1 time
  • He had 12 streaks of 5+ home runs where he hit at least one every other game:
    • 5 in 6 games
    • 5 in 10 games
    • 5 in 11 games
    • 6 in 5 games
    • 6 in 8 games
    • 6 in 10 games
    • 6 in 10 games (followed by an 18-game cold streak, his longest of ’08)
    • 6 in 11 games
    • 7 in 6 games
    • 7 in 13 games (followed by an 11-game cold streak, his longest of ’09)
    • 7 in 13 games (preceded by a 13-game cold streak, his longest of ’07)
    • 9 in 11 games

The 21-game homer-less streak he started this season with is his longest since his rise to prominence, but it was also injury-related as he was dealing with a thumb injury so that only compounded things for a guy who is naturally inconsistent.  Morale of the story: if you are willing to take the risk of drafting him, set it and forget it.  Secondary morale: NEVER draft him in a H2H week.  He will kill you three weeks at a time before finally winning one by himself.

Carl Crawford is hitting .290 in 62 May at-bats notching a hit in 13 of his 15 games.  There hasn’t really been much else yet (2 SB, 4 RBI, 7 R), but considering the fact that he hit .155 for entire month of April his owners will take any glimmer of hope that their first round (or second round at latest) pick is ready to perform like one.

Drew Stubbs has reached base in his last 10 games posting a very strong .349/.440/.535 with 2 HR, 4 RBI, 4 SB, 7 BB and 9 R in 43 at-bats.  He was a target sleeper for many, namely Matthew Berry of ESPN and Cory Schwartz of MLB.com, being tabbed as potentially this year’s Carlos Gonzalez.  So far he has lived up to the billing pacing for a season of .279 batting average with 27 home runs, 77 RBIs, 123 runs scored and 54 stolen bases which would no doubt make him one of the best fantasy players in all of baseball.  He is currently rated 5th on ESPN’s Player Rater and checks in 8th overall in Yahoo!’s ranking.

Before hitting the disabled list with an injury, Victor Martinez had a .250/.292/.417 line and hadn’t hit a home run in 12 games as the Tigers were an underwhelming 8-9.  He has torched the place since coming back from injury hitting .415/.489/.683 with 7 XBH (including 2 HR), 14 RBI, 9 R and 6 BB in 41 at-bats.  His surge places him 3rd among catchers on ESPN’s Player Rater behind teammate Alex Avila.

Martin Prado has reached base in 20 straight games dating back to April 26th including hits in 19 of them.  He was hitting .240 before the run, but going .360/.394/.551 w/4 HR, 17 RBI, 13 R, 5 BB, 3 CS in 89 AB has brought him to .296/.338/.450 which is just a tick below his career marks while his 117 OPS+ is right in line with his career 116 given the down hitting environment of 2011.

Perhaps Alberto Callaspo is the oasis you are looking for in the third base wasteland.  It was pretty weak before the season started and a rash of injuries might have taken it past shortstop as the worst fantasy position on the diamond.  He is available in a lot of leagues, too: CBS: 60%, ESPN: 49%, Y!: 32%.  In his last 12 games he is hitting .391/.404/.522 w/11 RBI.  Only 2 R and 0 HR & 0 SB, but again, it’s awful at third base so beggars can’t be choosy.  He is hitting .309 on the season and on pace for 75 RBI.

Adrian Gonzalez is positively destroying the competition in his last 10 games to the tune of a .386/.429/.932(!) line with 7 HR, 16 RBI and 12 R in 44 at-bats.  He was hitting .250 exactly a month ago; he is hitting .327 now.

Rajai Davis has surged since returning from injury with 10 stolen bases and 10 runs scored in 15 games.

Mike Trout is living up to the prospect hype following his 2010 breakout, especially in his last 10 games: .357/.417/.643 with 2 HR, 5 RBI, 7 R, 2 SB, 5 BB in 42 AB.  Of course, he has been raking all year long hitting .315/.400/.569 with 6 HR, 17 XBH, 17 RBI, 17 BB so he is almost making it difficult on himself to have a stretch that actually stands out.

The Kansas City Royals have already called up two of their best prospects in Eric Hosmer and Danny Duffy, who makes his major league debut on Wednesday night.  Could Mike Moustakas be next?  There isn’t quite the natural opening that there was for both Hosmer and Duffy as Mike Aviles is playing well and even if you were to suggest moving him to second base, they still have Wilson Betemit.  That hasn’t stopped Mous from letting his bat make a bid for a call up as he has posted a .394/.474/.909 line in his last nine games with 9 XBH (4 HR), 12 RBI, 10 R, 1 SB, 5 BB and just 3 K (24 in his other 26 games) in 33 at-bats.  Man, perhaps even Dayton Moore can’t mess this up.  What a ridiculous crop of talent.

Dustin Ackley is also making a strong bid to get called up, but unlike with Moustakas in KC, the Mariners can definitely use his bat… and how.  Ackley is white-hot in his last 10 going .463/.540/.707 with 2 HR, 8 RBI, 10 R, 8 BB, 5 K in 41 AB.  During the streak he has one 0-fer and seven multi-hit games.  His season line is now up to .280/.399(!)/.445.  He has 33 walks against just 25 strikeouts.  Given their anemic offense and his brilliant control of the strike zone, it might be time to speculate on Ackley in leagues where he is available and would be useful (this wouldn’t include 10 team mixed leagues) such as any AL-Only league and deeper mixed leagues with a bench.  I would definitely speculate in any OBP league that fits these size criteria because at the very least he will draw walks as soon as he reaches the bigs.

Next time, I will look at some pitchers in the midst of a hot streaks.

Wednesday: 02.9.2011

Daily Dose – February 9th

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.

  1. Joe Mauer
  2. Victor Martinez
  3. Brian McCann
  4. Buster Posey
  5. Carlos Santana
  6. Mike Napoli
  7. Geovany Soto
  8. Miguel Montero
  9. Matt Wieters
  10. Kurt Suzuki
  11. Carlos Ruiz
  12. Chris Iannetta
  13. Jorge Posada
  14. Yadier Molina
  15. J.P. Arencibia
  16. A.J. Pierzynski
  17. John Buck
  18. Miguel Olivo
  19. Ryan Doumit
  20. Alex Avila
  21. Jarrod Saltalamacchia
  22. John Jaso
  23. Russell Martin
  24. Jesus Montero
  25. 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: