Picking up from where we left off in Part I, the doughty crew having listed the Indians as the lukewarm choice in the AL Central and expressed general optimism that spring has sprung, etc . . .
JABS: Before we head to fantasyland, what about the AL West? I find this division kind of dull, but perhaps it’s because it's just so far away. Is there more to life out there than moneyball and rally monkeys?
PISTOL: In the standings probably not, but every fifth Mariner game will be a must-see game with King Felix taking the hill. He's going to get Cy Young votes this year and he's only 20.
|DAVID COOPER/TORONTO STAR|
|Felix Hernandez: He'll get Cy Young votes, says Pistol.|
MAGPIE: I think 2006 is Oakland's year. It may have to be - the Angels have hordes of exciting young talent just banging on the gates.
I keep expecting Buck Showalter to do in Texas what he did in New York and Arizona - put together a contender, and get kicked out the door in time for his successor to inherit the glory. And just two years ago, the Rangers won 89 games and looked ready to mix it up with the A's and the Angels. But it still looks like no one, Buck included, has figured out how to assemble a pitching staff that can get through a season in Arlington.
MARK: Texas could factor into the picture, but the race should ultimately come down to the Angels and the Athletics. Unlike in past years, I don't think it'll be much of a race. To me, the Athletics are clearly the better team, both offensively and defensively. Billy Beane has assembled a well-balanced roster with very few holes and plenty of depth, while the Angels' roster features one too many overpaid players who are in their decline phase. Although the Angels possess plenty of talent, I expect the Athletics to win the division by at least five games.
JIM: The honour of being the Third Man falls to Texas. We know the Rangers can score. Your offence is doing something right when your secondary hitters - Dellucci, Barajas and Matthews - combine for 67 homers. The pitching should be improved with Millwood and Padilla. Personally, I don't get dealing Chris Young for Adam Eaton, but the rotation should still outperform Chan Ho and the Camera Slayers. I doubt it'll be enough to catch Oakland's combination of pitching and young offence, but there should be plenty of fireworks before the west is won.
JABS: You don’t get them dealing Chris Young? Tell me about it.
JIM: From 2005:
................ AGE G .. GS . IP ...... H . HR .. BB . SO . W-L ... ERA
Young ........26 . 31 . 31 . 164.2 162 . 19 . 45 . 137 . 12-7 . 4.26
Eaton ........ 27 . 24 . 22 . 128.2 140 . 14 . 44 . 100 . 11-5 . 4.27
Their records are close, with Young posting superior strikeout and walk rates and fewer hits per inning. But consider that Young did this in the best hitter's park in a DH league, while Eaton pitched in one of the best pitcher's parks in the NL, and Young's season is quite a bit more impressive. Young is also 18 months younger than Eaton and entering just his second full season, while Eaton will be a free agent at the end of the year and figures to get expensive.
|Chris Young: You knew he'd show up here.|
CHRIS: There’ll be no more to life in the AL West than Rally Monkeys and Moneyball from now through 2020. Blanton, Harden, Haren, Barton, Crosby, Street vs. Wood, Kendrick, Morales, Aybar, Santana, Mathis from 2007 on. The best all-around systems in baseball, hands down.
AARON: How will the Angels compete with only one Molina? When you separate them, you diminish their powers.
JABS: I’m a little suspicious at all this unanimity, but let’s move on to quick fantasy notes, and Pistol mentioned Felix Hernandez while Jim lobs Chris Young into the mix (By the way, if the D-backs ever deal outfielder Chris Young for pitcher Chris Young, would that be the first time players of the same name had been traded for each other – to say nothing of the blogging possibilities in this space?) Who do you see as some young players who are going to outperform their auction values this season – and who are the ones to avoid?
MARK: I'm not aware of any instances when two players of the same name were traded for each other, but I do remember when Bobby J. Jones and Bobby M. Jones were teammates on the Mets. I think Josh Willingham will provide a lot of value relative to his draft position. He'll spend most of the season in the Marlins' outfield, but he qualifies at catcher and should match, if not better, the offensive totals of backstops taken approximately ten rounds before him.
On the other hand, a young player I'd be wary of is Robinson Cano. His minor league track record isn't that great, as he only performed well when he repeated a league, and various projection systems predict a slight regression. In my opinion, he's been chosen too early in almost every league I've participated in.
|Robinson Cano: Don't overvalue him, Mark warns.|
JABS: Cano is going to go high. He's a Yankee, coming off a good debut year. What about Johnny Damon in the Bronx? Anything to take note of there, before you jump in with both feet on draft day?
MARK: First and foremost, I look for value relative to draft position. As a result, I rarely have Yankees on my team, because they're simply overvalued as a result of overexposure, contract size, past glory, etc. To be honest, I wouldn't be surprised if his replacement in Boston, Coco Crisp, outperforms, or at least matches, his production this season. Other than that, Damon's a dependable player who plays 145+ games a year and should fare well relative to other outfielders. But so should Crisp and several others who'll likely be drafted at least a round or two later.
PISTOL: Things will vary from league to league. I actually found in my auction league that young players (and Young players) went significantly higher than I expected, and higher than they should have. I always like having a productive catcher since there's so few. I'd get my hands on Martinez or Mauer if it's possible. I also think David Wright will be a top 10 fantasy player this year. On the pitching side of things I like Bonderman, Webb, and Lackey to take another step forward this year.
JABS: Why do you think the young 'uns went earlier than usual? And I notice Kyle Lohse is 4-0 in the spring. When does he turn into Kyle Lohse?
PISTOL: Young players go higher than they should because expectations exceed realistic expectations. You may hear that Ryan Zimmerman will be the next Scott Rolen, but he's not going to reach that level for a few seasons, especially in the power department in RFK -- but someone will bid him too high. Lohse's peripherals looks the same as they always do. There's no reason to think he's any different now than he has been in the past. Wins are pretty meaningless for pitchers.
CHRIS: The young players I am eyeing this year are Curtis Granderson, Joe Blanton, Scott Kazmir and Fernando & Daniel Cabrera. Granderson has the starting CF job in Detroit, and looks to go 20-20 this year. Blanton and Kazmir are for real, and proved as much last season, especially down the stretch. F. Cabrera should be Cleveland's closer by mid-season & D. Cabrera has nasty, nasty stuff, and looks to be ready to break through with Leo Mazzone in his ear. I am avoiding Bobby Jenks, who has already lost his sole-closer role, and up to 5 MPH off his fastball, in spring training, Dallas McPherson, who looks to have been passed on the depth chart by Kendry Morales, and King Felix, who I think will be great this season, but not top 5 SP $$$ great.
|Uh-oh, looks like another case of Pavanoitis.|
AARON: I have two pieces of fantasy advice:
1) if you have a significant other who is not into baseball, the best thing you can do for your own baseball-watching habits is get her into a fantasy league. It may require some serious coaxing, but I found that saying something like "Remember the time you told me I should put emulsifying clay in my hair because it would look really great, and I was really resistant to put something brown and smelly in my hair? But I did it, right? And my hair looks great, right? Now I love the emulsifying clay! And I think it'll be the same with you and fantasy baseball." Really, it was the best thing I ever did. I turned my baseball-is-so-boring wife into a ticker-watching maniac who enjoyed rubbing it in my face when her waiver pickups worked out better than I said they would. And even if you don't like the emulsifying clay, it is key to tell her that you like it and that you never would have tried it without her. You love the emulsifying clay. It looks great. Keep telling yourself that.
If you are single and this does not apply to you, my fantasy advice is Do Not Date Actresses, No Matter How Normal And Well Adjusted They Seem.
2) my sleeper pick is Luis Sojo.
MAGPIE: I'm not a fantasy player. I do know that Young Pitchers Will Break Your Heart, even worse than the women do. In this context, that would mean that King Felix or Kazmir or Bonderman, even if they pitch very well and strike out 200 batters, could easily go 12-14 at the same time. My best fantasy tip - shun Adam Eaton!
CHRIS: Come draft day I too have two simple rules -- Rule One: No beer until after the draft. I like beer, I don't like being saddled with a way overpriced Carl Pavano because I thought another owner was looking at me funny. Which leads me to Rule Two . . . No Yankee off-season SP signings. Just call it Pavanoitis or Brown's Disease. New York kills free agent pitching--steer clear.
(On Monday, Part III and a look at the Toronto Blue Jays.)