An Ode to James Shields

There is plenty to be frustrated with as a fantasy owner. There are always decisions to second guess, players to curse, and outrageous fortune to question. This year I have spent a lot of time questioning my sanity regarding two players: Hanley Ramirez and Yovani Gallardo.

I took Hanley with the third pick in my winners league. Albert Pujols and Troy Tulowitzki were off the board. I had banked on Tulo being there at three, so I was thrown off by that, and my gut instinct was to go for Adrian Gonzalez. That would have been early for Adrian (a sure-fire first rounder, but more in the 8-12 range), but my gut said do it…my head said “Hanley”, so I picked Hanley. Hanley may still have  a great year, but Adrian! Regret.

I took Yovani around round five or six on both of my teams. Drafted him to be the ace. Drafted him with full confidence that this was the year. Look out Roy Halladay and Tim Lincecum, 2011 belongs to Yovani. Again, there is a lot of year left and plenty of time for him to turn in a solid effort (he has already begun the turn around in many respects). But there have been some ugly, ugly moments thus far. Regret.

With those regrets in mind I would like to point out how right I was about James Shields. He had a rough year in 2010 but he was incredibly unlucky and still struck out 187 guys. He was going very, very late in drafts…going at the same time as fringe closers and second catchers. After yesterdays masterpiece Shields is 5-2 with an ERA of  2.00, a WHIP of 0.93, 73 Ks in 76.2 IP. He’s striking out 5 times as many guys as he is walking. He’s keeping the ball in the park. Nasty. No regrets and definitely a sanity restorer!



Thoughts on Fantasy, Predictions, and Soup

I love soup. Watching baseball in DC is like ordering soup in a restaurant. I won’t leaving you hanging with that little nugget, I’ll explain. Recently I went to a nice little restaurant called “Not Your Average Joe’s.” Steve may know this place because it is a Boston chain. We didn’t go on Friday which is a little disappointing because Friday is clam chowder day. I never end up at restaurants on the right soup day. I always get stuck on “Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean” night. Don’t get me wrong, I’ll still order the Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup, it just isn’t clam chowder.

Many of you may be tracking where I’m going here, other’s may not, so let me drive this car into the garage. Every time I flip on the TV to watch some sports, I’m stuck with many options. Orioles, Nationals, Cubs, Red Sox or Yankees are always on TV here. The Giants are never on.  All those other teams are Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup to me. I enjoy the heck out of watching them, they just aren’t clam chowder. I miss clam chowder. Nay, I need me some chowder.

After the first week of May, I feel the need to evaluate some of my choices. I have made some bad choices. Bad choice #1. Picking the Brewers to be good. You may be thinking, “you also picked the Red Sox to be good and their records are similar.” Great thought, however, the Red Sox have some proven veteran players. I think the Red Sox are performing at their lowest level. Eventually, those good players will start producing and average out this slow start.  I’m not so sure the Brewers are at their low point. This could just be their actual performance level.

Bad choice #2. The AL central. Ok so we all got this one wrong and it may even out in the end. However, this start is almost exactly backwards from how I predicted it. I think it is great for baseball when Cleveland is good, but this start came out of nowhere. I hope they can continue it.

Bad choice #3 is all about fantasy baseball. I drafted Troy Tulowitzki and Ryan Howard with my first two picks. How’s that working out? Well it could be worse, but besides the HR totals, I’m not impressed. Tulo is ranked 69th and Howard is ranked 33rd. I currently don’t have any hitters ranked higher than 33rd on my team. Suckfest! I guess my bad choice #3 should be my whole draft. Terrible. I am in fifth and sinking fast.

Making bad choices is part of the fun of baseball.  For all the talk about luxury tax issues, baseball has an incredible amount of parity. You never quite know who will be good and who will struggle. The first month of this season points this out perfectly. Who knew the Indians would be so good, Lance Berkman would be playing out of his mind, or that the White Sox would already be 11 games out of first. If you knew those things, before the season you would be a genius or a  liar. Me, I’m just going to eat more Southwestern Chipotle Lintel Bean soup while thinking about clam chowder.


Fantasy Grades

We’re only a month into the season but it seems like a natural time to revisit some of my fantasy picks from earlier on. I’ll give you the player I liked before the season, the one month grade, and a suggested alternative.

Early Rounds:

Here’s the link to the original post.

  1. Troy Tulowitski: hard to argue with this pick. Tulo’s been a stud and will continue to be so as long as he’s healthy. A with no reservations (only regret here is I didn’t get him on any teams).
  2. Ryan Zimmerman: Zim was doing alright (little power) then pulled an abdominal muscle. This is annoying now and could get ugly if it takes a long time to come back. C (if I could do it over: Jose Bautista…just keeps mashing!).
  3. Dustin Pedroia: Dustin has been solid so far. .282/2 HR/11 R/2 SB…not great, but he’s shown that the “laser show” is still real. I have no doubt he’ll be a top 3 2B and completely justify being a round 3 pick. B
  4. Jon Lester: Lester has been a little screwed by the Sox early lack of scoring. However, if there’s been one knock against Jon in his career it’s been slow starts. So to see a strikeout per inning, 2 wins, a 2.59 era, and a 1.18 WHIP at the end of April is a great sign. He’ll be one of the top 10 if not top 5 fantasy pitchers by years end. B+ (do over pick: Jered Weaver…I’m not a big fan of the Weaver’s, at all, but hard to argue with his performance this year, plus you could have picked him up a few rounds after Lester).
  5. Buster Posey: Posey’s season has been interesting. He’s ranked 62 overall in the Yahoo! game right now (right in line with his draft position). When you look at his overall line (.280/9 runs/4 HR/ 16 RBI/3 SB) it looks great, especially the RBI and SB. However, you get the feeling that he should be better. Are expectations too high? Maybe. I’ll give him a B+ even though he is the number 2 catcher in fantasy right now.
Middle Rounds:
again the link to the original article.
  1. Pablo Sandoval: Nothing but good things here. Especially the 5 home runs. It’s still early, and many are quick to point out that the Panda had a good April last year and then tanked, so there are some questions about how we will hold up over the summer. That said, this pick has turned out extremely well so far. A
  2. Drew Stubbs: I got Pablo but did not get Stubbs. This pains me a bit as Drew is currently ranked 11th overall in Yahoo!  4 HR, 8 steals, 17 runs scored. Everything as advertised! A (do over: this is not so much a do over as a poor man’s option…Sam Fuld is probably long gone in any league at this point, but he’s come out of nowhere to provide Stubbs like production on the cheap…picked him up in both leagues and enjoying the fruits).
  3. David Ortiz: Papi hasn’t done much, but then he never does much in April. So, like Lester, for him to have 2 HR, 12 runs, and be hitting over the Mendoza line is a good sign. As the weather heats up so does Papi. Jury is still out but for now C. (do over pick: Travis Hafner…again not a guy anyone would have drafted, at least not in the middle rounds, but he’s putting up Papi numbers for cheap. I love Hafner and used him a lot in the 2005-2008 run of greatness so it warms my heart to see him having a comeback).
  4. Yovani Gallardo: Gallardo has thrown a complete game, 2 hit shutout, otherwise he’s been massively disappointing. I still have hope that he turns it around (I also have a lot riding on him as he is essentially my ace on both teams), but he’s been a bummer thus far. D (do over: Shawn Marcum has been the Brewer Big Three member who has pitched most like an Ace this season. Another guy who went around this position in the draft was Brett Anderson and he’s been nasty).
  5. Daniel Hudson: Another colossal fail, but not quite as bad because he wasn’t drafted to be an ace. He’s my fourth starter on the team I own him on. And, actually, if you take away his last start he’s been good (all quality starts up to that point). However, he’s had bad run support, and I wonder, as a young pitcher, if he isn’t pressing and trying to be perfect as a result. Whatever’s going on, the strikeouts are still there, but not much else. Another D (do over pick: Can’t believe I’m going to say this, but I really wish I had taken a risk and picked Josh Beckett. He’s been unbelievable, even against the Yankees. I’m still not fully convinced…he’ll probably get hurt at some point, but so far, wow!)
  6. Joel Hanrahan: Finally, a middle round guy I got right! Hanrahan has been outstanding (6 for 6 in save opps, and a strikeout an inning), but his opportunities have been limited. Still, that projects out to about 35 saves, which is what you hope for in a closer taken in the late middle rounds on a crappy team. B+ with no do overs.
Late Rounds
  1. John Buck/J.P. Arencibia/John Jaso: So far only J.P. has provided any real value, and I’m guessing the other two guys are floating around your league’s waiver wire. Luckily I was able to grab J.P. and I haven’t had to play him much (my number ones are McCann and Posey, who have both been good and playing a lot). The couple of games I’ve had to use J.P. he’s been great, hitting 3 home runs. Buck might not be of much value playing in Florida this year, but I have to believe that Jaso will get it going at some point. B- (do over: I’m guessing Alex Avila wasn’t drafted in many leagues but he’s been awesome for the Tigers and will get a lot of playing time if he can keep it up).
  2. Jed Lowrie: Time for me to brag it up a little. I was absolutely convinced Jed would break out this year (although he did it sooner than I thought), and I have been right and then some. There’s always the looming danger of injury and Francona can be somewhat wishy-washy with young guys, but I think Jed will get 450 ABs minimum this year and is too versatile and awesome not to be on your squad. A
  3. Brandon League: Leauge has been good, not great, and definitely not good enough to ward off losing his closing job to David Aardsma who is set come back soon. Also, Seattle is terrible so there hasn’t been much opportunity to shine. I’m still holding out hope that Aardsma fails or gets hurt again (that sounds terrible I know), but it looks like this will just be a way to steal some early season saves. C+ (do over: two guys who weren’t in the picture during drafts but should be universally owned now: Sergio Santos who looks to be cleaning up the White Sox bullpen mess and Jordan Walden from Anaheim).
  4. James Shields: Again, let me gloat a little here. I got James on both teams in the very final rounds and he’s been outstanding. Everything pointed to him making a big rebound this year, and he is off to a great start: missing bats, getting ground balls, lots of innings, and beautiful ratios. What’s not to love: 38.1 IP/2 W/ 27 K/2.35 ERA/0.97 WHIP. A
  5. Magglio Ordonez: Now for some humble pie. I luckily didn’t get Magglio on any of my teams and he’s been terrible: 0 HR/1 RBI/.196 AVG. awful. F (do over: look no further than outfield mate Brennan Boesch who has been putting up Mags-like numbers 1 HR/12 RBI/.358 AVG with 2 steals to boot).
There you have it…some hits and misses for sure. Good luck fantasy players.

Early Season Fantasy Thoughts

One thing I cannot stand about early season baseball are the definitive ultimatums that “prove” that such and such a team or player is obviously__________(done, great, going to have a career year, on pace to, overrated, etc, etc). I do it too, so I shouldn’t cast the first stone, but come on people: the Giants are done? Pujols sucks?The Red Sox are overrated? Last year at this time Edgar Renteria was hitting .800 which was a clear sign that he was headed for postseason stardom. Right?

The Giants are 0-2 and the Red Sox are 0-1. No time to panic. So, let’s talk about fantasy baseball instead. I have two teams this year (one fun, and one for real), so some of my player commentary will cross over from team to team. Anyway: early season fantasy thoughts…

– How about those late round catchers: J.P. Arencibia (who I have) 2 hrs and a triple and bunch of RBIs…John Buck (don’t have) goes deep too.

– I didn’t get Joel Hanrahan but I still like him as this years Carlos Marmol (adventurous, strike out laden saves).

– I did get Craig Kimbrel and I like how that is panning out so far.

– Neil Walker: thank you very much…doesn’t get much better than a grand slam!

– Yovani Gallardo should be 1-0…bullpen problems could cost me that CYA prediction!

– Grabbed Chone Figgins in the 12th round in one of my leagues. That could end up being a big steal (pun intended).

Brandon Belt is paying off so far. Posey will come around. Those are my two Giants’ hitters.

– Still have a ton of pitchers who haven’t pitched yet. Excited to see what James Shields (my late round gamble) has today (had a really nice spring for what its worth).

– Something tells me Matt Cain restores some order to the universe today. Go Giants.


Spring Fantasy Pt. 3

No particular reason for this picture other than it is awesome.

With that out-of-the-way let’s turn our attention to the final installment of my fantasy draft strategy. So far we’ve looked at 5 guys I will go all out for in the first 5 rounds. Then we looked at the all important middle rounds and six guys to target there (remember: the middle rounds are where the game is won and lost, so do your research and choose well).

Today let’s look at the tricky final rounds. I do not think that rounds 18-23 (or whatever that looks like in your format) are make or break, but you can get a serious leg up here as well. Let’s be honest: most of the guys you grab here will be dropped by the time May rolls around, so don’t get too stressed. However, it is possible though to find some real gems here (and make the rest of your league look foolish). Last year I grabbed Clay Buchholz and Martin Prado in this stage of the draft and they turned in to gold. So, who will fill that role this year?

My approach to the final rounds is three-fold:

  1. Who will go undrafted, but cause owners to wish they had on their rosters three weeks in to the season (i.e. the bona fide sleeper pick)?
  2. What do I need to fill out my team (power, a steals guy, one more closer, etc)?
  3. Who is still the on the board that surprises me?

Here are my five late round targets:

1) John Buck/J. P. Arencibia/John Jaso C: These guys fall squarely under criteria number 2. A vital aspect of my fantasy strategy is to always carry two catchers. Even the best catchers play only about 130 games, so getting max volume out of the position is a big advantage. In my mocks, I’ve been taking Posey or McCann and all three of these guys are available late and sometimes even undrafted. Jaso should hit lead off a lot for the Rays so expect good average, runs, and even a few steals. Arencibia is all potential and should provide great power out of this spot. Buck probably won’t be as good this year as last, but is another good power source late in the draft at a tough position.

2) Jed Lowrie SS: Jed is a category one pick. No one else has drafted him in my mocks and I end up taking him with the last pick every time. He had a great August and September, and it is my opinion that he will work his way into significant playing time either via injury or Scutaro sucking. The second half of the season he should be the Red Sox starting SS (also eligible at 2B in Yahoo!). He is my 2011 version of Martin Prado.

3) Brandon League CL: this is a little bit of a gamble, but that is often what the late rounds are all about. I think there is a very good chance Aardsma will not be ready for the start of the season and League will take the closer position and not let it go. Just a hunch, but a hunch that could pay off in 30+ saves. Worth it in rounds 20-23.

4) James Shields SP: I have never been a huge fan of Shields in real baseball or fantasy. But his value has dropped a ton and he can be had with a 20th round pick. I smell value. The guy had some terrible luck last year (almost a .350 BABIP) and he missed bats (187 Ks). He’s not an ace, but could be a solid number 3 fantasy starter, and he’s nearly free going in rounds 19-22. If you need another SP late, think hard about this guy.

5) Magglio Ordonez OF: There is an eternal soft spot in my heart for Mags. He’s been a part of almost every championship squad I’ve put together. Gone are the days of being taken in the first 10 rounds as a solid everyday lineup kind of guy. However, he is supposed to bat 3rd for the Tigers, which is not a bad spot to be in (after Austin Jackson and the underrated Ryan Raburn, and before Miguel Cabrera and Victor Martinez). If he stays healthy 100 runs, 100 RBI, and .300 AVG are attainable. Big IF, but again he’s not going until very late if he gets drafted at all (a classic category 3 pick).

There you go. Fantasy preview complete. Thoughts?


Spring Fantasy Pt. 2

As promised two weeks ago, here are the six guys (3 hitters, 3 pitchers) I would love to grab in the middle rounds of this years’ fantasy draft (picks 6-15). These are the rounds where championships are won. In my experience everyone gets at least three studs, one dud, and one injury in rounds 1-5. But the winners separate themselves with their picks after the top five. So be wise and do your research on the middle of the pack, not on the cream of the crop!


1) Pablo Sandoval: my Zimmerman fantasy has not been working out in any of the mock drafts I’ve done so far. As a result, I’ve found myself getting as far the 10th round without a third baseman. Almost every time Pablo has been there. This is a guy who was often drafted in the second round last year! We all know about his crappy year and his weight loss, and I am not alone in thinking this will be a nice bounce back year, but I’ve been able to pick up the Panda in rounds 8-10, which should turn a nice profit and prove to be a steal.

2) Drew Stubbs: here’s a great example of knowing your draft/league. I’ve seen Drew go as early as round five and as late as round 9. Some are wary of his propensity to strike out (and to end up in Dusty Baker’s doghouse) and others are salivating over his 30-30 potential. I think 25 home runs, 40+ stolen bases, and a better overall batting average are in line. I’m not a big steals guy, and when I draft for steals it almost always is for guys with power (bj upton over jose reyes, for example). As a result, I’ve been trying to get him in the 7th round, but have picked him in the 6th as well. Classic boutry fantasy pick.

3) David Ortiz: last year Big Papi hit 32 home runs, drove in 102 runs, and had an OPS of .899. His ADP (average draft position) has him going in the 12th or 13 rounds. Yes please. Ortiz is a cheap way to pick up power and if you can get him there you take it. Never really been a fan of Papi in fantasy, but his value is low right now and so I’m a buyer. Red Sox hitters will produce a lot of fantasy value this year!


1) Yovani Gallardo: The Brewers added two studs this year in Greinke and Marcum but Gallardo is the best play on their staff in my estimation. Plus you can get him 2-3 rounds after Greinke is off the boards! My general strategy is to take 7-8 postion players with the top ten picks, so getting Gallardo as my number two guy in every draft (usually in the 7th or 8th rounds) is awesome. I expect him to be a top 10 pitcher this year.

2) Daniel Hudson: I’ve noticed his value creeping up as the spring has gone along. In my first mock I drafted him in round 17. Now I’m stoked if I can grab him at 13 or 14. That’s fine. I think this guy will be among the best 20 fantasy pitchers this year (a slightly better/more expensive version of what Clay Buchholz was for me last year). He’s nasty and he’s going to be my fourth starter!

3) Joel Hanrahan: Closers are a crapshoot. I usually try to get one guy I’m sure will be in the position all year and get a lot of saves (the last two years this was Brian Wilson, but he is not longer a secret…he’s going in rounds 4-6 which is mariano rivera territory and too rich for my blood). I try to fill my other two closer spots with someone from a team I think will get a lot of wins/save opportunities (Brian Fuentes was this for me when he closed for Anaheim), and then someone from a crappy team who will strike out a bunch of dudes. Last year this was Carlos Marmol, this year it is Joel Hanrahan. Hopefully he keeps the walks down and stays the stopper for the full season. You can get him later than 15 but I’ve taken him there just to be safe. Side note: Joe Nathan has also been going late (rounds 11-14), not a bad gamble there at all!

There you go. Who are your middle round gems?

Spring Fantasy

Pitchers and catchers report today, which means Spring Training is officially upon us. The monks will have plenty to say during the lead up to the season, but I have to get this off my chest: I don’t really like ST. I like going to ST. I’ve really enjoyed it both times I’ve gone. But for the most part ST news is a bunch of optimistic nonsense, ridiculous catastrophizing, and meaningless box scores. I find it to be mildly tortuous as we wait for the real thing to get started.

That being said, now that I live on the East Coast ST signals a change in seasons and the potential for warmer weather and that is most welcome. It also means that it’s time to get ready for fantasy baseball!!! I have some titles to defend this year, so the next couple of weeks will involve settling in to a strategy for late March drafts.

I haven’t spent too much time thinking about this, but I did sign up for my “winners” league today so here are my initial thoughts…5 guys I wouldn’t mind getting in the first 5 rounds:

1) Troy Tulowitski: The Giants fan in me hopes for two things…one, that I get the first pick in the draft so I can just pick Pujols and be done with it. Two, that Tulo pulls a hammy and plays the season at 60%, effectively ending the Rockies chances of winning the division. However, if I have picks 2-8 I almost certainly will take him first. If you’ve played against me you know I don’t put a lot of stock in the first round (I think if I win it’s because I choose well in rounds 6-14, not 1-5), so I often take guys that don’t make a ton of sense. (For example, I won last year taking Hanley with a 2nd over all and Prince Fielder with a 10th overall and neither of them really performed to the pick). All of that to say, I think Tulo will have a monster year, be worthy of a number 2 pick, and make an error on the last day of the season to give the Giants the division. To have him at SS (a REALLY thin position) would be huge.

2) Ryan Zimmerman: Ok, the days of grabbing Zim with a late second round (or later) pick are likely over, but he will be 2011’s Joey Votto (a guy picked in the 15-30 range who provides a top 5 season). If I got Tulo at, say, 4, I’ll be praying I can get Zim at 20 (might be a pipe dream).

3) Dustin Pedroia: I think Pedroia will be a great pick this year for two reasons: one, his stock will be slightly depressed (4th round hopefully) with the injury/recovery questions, and, two, I think he will have a monster year in Boston’s loaded lineup.

4) Jon Lester: Another potential pipe dream. Lester has been the backbone of my rotations the last two seasons, but I never had to draft him earlier than the 6th round. Those days are over. I refuse to draft pitchers until round 5 but I may have to bend that rule this year to get him.

5) Buster Posey: Round five still feels like a stretch for Buster, as much as I love him (I think he should go later to be honest). However, if I can pull off Posey/Tulo/Pedroia up the middle that will be huge!!!

I’ll weigh in later with my 5 guys I want in the mid-rounds, but that’s where I’m starting from this season (likely to change about 30 times in the next 3 days). Who are you willing to go all out for in the early rounds?

Baseball is here my friends!