For reasons that haven’t made themselves clear yet I am unofficially marking today as the opening of Fantasy Season. Recently, last year’s booms and busts(yeah yeah, you got Cargo in the 14th. I’ll put it on your epitaph) have been discussed over cold beers and crisp, clean fantasy magazines with only the faintest beginnings of chicken-scratched notes. And because I spent more of Superbowl Sunday preparing for drafts that are still over a month away than I did watching football, I feel obligated to share findings, musings and other points of interest with the readers of this post. Both of you.
In Fantasy Baseball there are few things to brag about. It’s a rarity for an owner to completely dodge the three headed monster of slumps, injuries and woulda-coulda-shoulda draft choices. You either win or you made a great pick that you can still brag about in the off-season or keep for next year. I can hear the Pavlovian drooling at the thought of my notes so we better get down to it.
Fransisco Liriano – I’ve already seen a lot of guys marking him down for a CY coming up. His peripherals last year show him pitching much better than the 14-10 record and even the 3.62 ERA. A K/BB of 3.47 and an outstanding 9.44 K/9 show that Liriano is fully back and ready to deliver a huge season. Be warned though, the hype is legitimate but there will still be those reaching too early.
Jonathan Sanchez – Sanchez averaged the 13th round last year in mixed leagues, proving that pitching can be waited on. He’s got legit 200K potential every year, but last season he had a bit of a flukish .262 BABIP(career is .301) and his walk rate has always been high. Don’t reach too early for the K’s, but Sanchez can provide great value if he lasts to those middle rounds again.
Desmond Jennings – With Carl Crawford gone there are AB’s to be had in the Rays outfield with Jennings being first in line to get them. He hasn’t shown much pop, but he’s hit nearly .300 in the minors and has incredible speed. Many have said he’s cast in the same mold as the guy he’s replacing and could bring solid OBP, AVG, runs and steals.
Luke Scott – It’s hard to be more consistent than Luke Scott. The past 3 years would be nearly impossible to distinguish with the exception of an outlier .284 AVG this past year. HR’s of 23/25/27 and RBI of 65/77/72 all in less then 500 at-bats. Check your league’s rules though, as Scott played fewer than 20 games at 1B and in the OF and may be relegated to DH.
Cheap Saves – Kyle Farnsworth(Rays), Octavio Dotel(Jays), Leo Nunez(Marlins), Joel Hanrahan(Pirates), Kevin Gregg(Orioles)
Wandy Rodriguez – Might fall off a little bit on draft boards, but he shouldn’t. Don’t let an 11-12 record fool you into thinking Wandy isn’t a producer. 2.87 K/BB and 8.4 K/9 with an ERA steady under 4 gives you a strong #2 in an NL-only and a good middle rotation man in mixed leagues without costing a high pick or high dollars.
Kenley Jansen – Jonathon Broxton is still the closer in LA, but if he falters or your league rewards holds Jansen is a great late pick. He had video game like numbers in a short stint last year: 27ip 41k 0.67era . He did walk 15 and like any young arm with electric stuff will have control problems, but Jansen will either be grabbing holds or saves for the Dodgers while racking up the strikeouts.
Jordan Walden – In a similar mold to Jansen, Walden is waiting in the wings to close for the Angels. Walden features a triple digit fastball that helped him to 13.5 K/9 last year and will probably have him in the setup or 7th inning role to start the season.
Craig Kimbrel – Kimbrel is my pitching man-crush this year. Closing for a good Braves team with stuff that gave him a ridiculous 17.42 K/9 in the majors and 14.4 K/9 in the minors last year. I’ll put up with the walks for a full season of health and that strikeout rate. Guys like Kimbrel, Walden, Jansen, Luke Gregerson are going to make people forget about Carlos Marmol.
And now for my ultimate fantasy baseball man-crush of 2011……Drew Stubbs. Stubbs is primed to be the 2011 version of Carlos Gonzales. Maybe not of the same magnitude(contending for a triple crown), but in the sense that he will be a guy to come from relative obscurity name-wise and will go 30-30. Stubbs has the speed, power, ballpark, surrounding lineup and the solid 2010 to suggest a breakout 2011. Last year Stubbs was 1 of 2 players who had 20 homers, 75 RBI’s, 90 runs and 30 steals. The other was Hanley Ramirez.
I’ll gladly revisit this when 75% of the above mentioned players bust and Drew Stubbs is humping the bench in Triple A because I just cursed him.