Everything is wrong with me
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
 
fantasy baseball 2005
I've hinted at it before, but more than I've ever let on (until now), fantasy baseball is a GIANT part of my life.

[Shhh - do you hear that clicking noise? That's the sound of thousands of international/women readers clicking off my site. It's both sad and beautiful at the same time. Sigh.]

For those of you who don't know, fantasy baseball is a way for sports aficionados (read: nerds) like myself to live vicariously through their favorite major leaguers. To play, you join a league with some friends that typically has ten to twelve teams. Each person manages a team. The league begins before the start of the baseball season with draft. The goal is to draft a group of players to fill out a team (i.e. each team, like each major league team, would have a first baseman, three outfielders, five starting pitchers, etc). Any stats that your players accumulate, your team accumulates. Points are awarded for these stats, and whichever team has the most points at the end of the season wins the league.

But it's more than just sports statistics - it's a way for guys to keep in touch and talk tremendous shit about each other and each other's failings, mothers, and girlfriends (or lack thereof - the girlfriends I mean, not the mothers, because that shit ain't funny). I have been in a league with roughly the same ten guys every year since 2001. Sure, it doesn't sound like a very long time, but if it wasn't for this league I wouldn't have kept in touch with these assholes after college, as we have very little else to talk about and one time I fingerblasted my buddy Jon's girlfriend when he was in the hospital. But because of the fantasy league, I talk to them nearly every day. Mostly about their inadequate testicles, but whatever.

I'm not going to bother explaining how the scoring system works, because it's very complicated and if you're still reading this you know how fantasy baseball works. What I will do instead is give my 2005 preview for fantasy baseball, giving my top players at each position, followed by some thoughts (please note: at any given time I may be lying, as I know others in my league are reading this and I don't want to tip my hand).

And I should warn you now, this is not going to be funny. If you want funny (or the closest I can get to funny), check out the "Choice Cuts" or the pictures and come back tomorrow. I still love you and I hope you still love me.

We'll start at catcher, which has always been the bane of the fantasy manager's existence.
CATCHER
1) Ivan Rodriguez
2) Javy Lopez
3) Victor Martinez
4) Jorge Posada
5) Jason Varitek
6) Joe Mauer

One look at this list and you'll notice something right away: Puerto Ricans or people from those Puerto Rico-type countries make good catchers. However, when we say "good catchers", it's relative because catchers are not known for their fantasy production. After an early love affair with Pudge Rodriguez, I've learned to stay away from catchers for the most part and take them late - very late, typically not until after Round 15. There's just too much talent out there otherwise for me to waste a high pick on someone who's going to give me 70-18-70-2-.270 (runs-home runs-rbis-stolen bases-average). Joe Mauer is an interesting study. He's a 22 year-old phenom with a ton of tools...and bad knees. I might take a flier on him, but very late. My advice: wait until late and go after someone serviceable like Estrada, Leiberthal, or Kendall.

FIRST BASE
1) Albert Pujols
2) David Ortiz
3) Todd Helton
4) Jim Thome
5) Carlos Delgado
6) Adam Dunn

This position is ridiculously deep, and so for this reason I'd tend to stay away from 1B early. Sure, these guys are mashers, but why draft Helton in the second round when in a ten team league you can get someone like Derrek Lee or Aubrey Huff in the fifth (or possibly later)? Of course, I'm partial to Jim Thome, as I love the Phils and fat guys, but there are so many very good 1B that I'd be happy with any of the above or the aforementioned Lee and Huff or guys like Teixiera, Konerko, Hafner, Morneau, Sexson, or Casey on my team as my starting 1B. Just so damn deep.

SECOND BASE
1) Alfonso Soriano
2) Jeff Kent
3) Marcus Giles
4) Mark Loretta
5) Jose Reyes
6) Bret Boone

From depth to dearth: there ain't much at 2B this year. Soriano's numbers took a major tumble when he got to Texas, Bret Boone got off the 'roids and became terrible, and Jeff Kent still has a porn star moustache. Not much to say here. Though analysts are predicting a bounce back year for Soriano, I can't see using a first or second round pick on him (especially since his hammy's bothering him and he may start the season on the DL), and I might consider taking Kent in the fifth. I'm interested in Reyes: though he walked only 5 times in 210 at-bats, he's got some wheels (provided he stays injury-free). Otherwise, 2B is a real shit show.

SHORTSTOP
1) Miguel Tejada
2) Michael Young
3) Derek Jeter
4) Edgar Renteria
5) Jimmy Rollins
6) Nomar Garciaparra

There's a good amount of talent here, though not as much as at 1B. Notably absent from this list is Carlos Guillen, as c'mon, there's no way he repeats his 97-20-97-12-.318 year he had last year. He's fucking Carlos Guillen! I like Tejada, but he's not getting 150 rbis again. I also think Renteria and Nomar, former second or third round picks, could have big bounce back years. Also worth looking at are guys like Furcal, Cabrera, and Matsui. I'm kind of old-fashioned, so I like my middle-infielders to be speed guys, so I'm partial to someone like Rollins, who could steal 30 bases easily.

THIRD BASE
1) Alex Rodriguez
2) Scott Rolen
3) Adrian Beltre
4) Eric Chavez
5) Aramis Ramirez
6) Melvin Mora

Anytime the 6th ranked player put up numbers like 111-27-104-11-.340, you know the position is pretty deep. And I'm leaving out very legitimate guys like Aubrey Huff, Hank Blalock, and Chipper Jones. Then there's Mike Lowell, coming off a quiet year but with Delgado now in the lineup; youngsters David Wright, Casey Blake and Dallas McPherson looking to make an impact; and Troy Glaus and Aaron Boone returning from injury. This position is LOADED. I personally like Chavez. He was hurt last year and a lot of people will let him slip in their drafts. I also like Huff, who qualifies at 1B, 3B and OF. Not too shabby.

OUTFIELD
1) Vladimir Guerrero
2) Carlos Beltran
3) Manny Ramirez
4) Bobby Abreu
5) Jim Edmonds
6) Gary Sheffield
7) Carl Crawford
8) Ichiro Suzuki
9) Miguel Cabrera
10) Hideki Matsui

Barry Bonds, do you know why so many people hate you, aside from you cheating the game and all? It's because you're a whiney little (actually, very large) bitch. Do you know how many fantasy leagues Bonds has either ruined or sent into disarray by hinting at his retirement? Good LORD. Because my league counts OBP (instead of average) and total bases (instead of home runs), Bonds is a top three pick. Instead, no one knows what the hell to do. Thanks, thanks a lot Barry. As hinted first in Slack Lalane, maybe Bonds is going to quit because he finally can't play without steroids? What a fucking asshole.

Anyway, I lot of people think, "I don't want to take an OF with a high pick, because there are so many of them." Yes, asshole, but you have to start three, as opposed to starting one of the other position players. Vlad's still at the top, and while I don't think Beltran will put up the same numbers playing in Shea, you have to love any player with 30-30 potential. Carl Crawford is a surprise pick, even going in the first round in some drafts because of his gaudy number of stolen bases. While I see the logic, I don't think it's the best thing to do. Crawford's up there, but there's no way I'm going to take him over a guy like Sheffield, who gives you everything but SBs, while Crawford gives you almost nothing in the HR and RBI departments.

STARTING PITCHING
1) Randy Johnson
2) Johan Santana
3) Curt Schilling
4) Jason Schmidt
5) Pedro Martinez
6) Roger Clemens
7) Ben Sheets
8) Roy Oswalt
9) Mark Prior
10) Carlos Zambrano

To me, it's an easy choice: if you have the #1 overall pick in your draft, you have to take Randy Johnson. I know he's old, but he's been old for about seven years now. What I also know is that he had 16 wins last year for a team that went 51-111. And now he's pitching for a team that went 101-61 last year. Barring injury, Randy Johnson could easily win 25 games. I have no doubt about this. And his peripherals should increase, as even though he's switching to the AL (with the DH), these AL hitters haven't seen him since 1998. Randy is #1. I don't understand how this is even debatable.

Aside from Randy, the biggest question is Mark Prior's health. If he's healthy, I'd rank him at #2, just ahead of Santana, but there are too many question marks for me to feel comfortable about him. Pedro could have a very good year at Shea, but he's been on the decline for so long and is such a headcase that it's impossible to say for sure. I don't think Jason Schmidt is getting the respect he deserves; prior to his September melt-down, he was the best pitcher in baseball.

CLOSERS
1) Eric Gagne
2) Mariano Rivera
3) Joe Nathan
4) Armando Benitez
5) Brad Lidge
6) Jason Isringhausen

With closers, it's Gagne, Rivera, and then everyone else. Maybe I have Lidge too low (he struck out an astonishing 157 in 94.2 innings last year), but closers are about getting saves, and Lidge had only 29 last year, while the other guys had 45, 53, 44, 47, and 47 respectively. Typically, my strategy is to focus on starting pitchers and grab four crappy closers late in the draft, but there's certainly a piece of mind element in getting a guy like Gagne or Rivera in the third and not having to worry about drafting another closer for a long, long time. Keep an eye on Keith Foulke and Billy Wagner, who could both have big years.

***********************************

So that's my analysis. I have a draft this Thursday, as well as drafts next Wednesday and Thursday (and yes, I am single). I'm sorry to go off on such a tangent, but preparing for these drafts have totally taken over my life, so if I have to suffer then you have to suffer.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have to get back to examining Jason Schmidt's splits versus Curt Schilling's splits. Because, really, I'm not sure who I like better. I mean, Curt has the bloody sock, but Jason and I have the same name. God I'm so confused.



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