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Monday, January 31, 2011

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL CATCHER TIER RANKINGS


For the last month or so I have been bringing to you my continuously updated 2011 Fantasy Baseball position rankings.  I will keep doing so up until the season starts but I wanted to get a tad more in depth by placing them in tiers this week.  Today we start at the catcher position.  Here is how I see the rankings at this point and included are the tiers I see them sitting in.

Tier 1-The top of the heap.  I likely wont end up with any of these guys as the price wont be agreeable for me.  I cant justify a high pick on a position that is very injury prone and doesn't yield 500 at-bats.  I will be honest with you.  I really was tempted to put Posey first but he needs to do it another season.  Very good bats here.
1.  Joe Mauer
2.  Brian McCann
3.  Buster Posey
4.  Victor Martinez

Tier 2-My catcher will almost certainly come from either here or Tier 3.  Looking hard at Soto who I had last year to great success along with Montero and the post hyped Wieters.  No thanks to Napoli and Posada.
5.  Carlos Santana
6.  Geovany Soto

Tier 3-Not as sure of a thing here but Montero was solid when he played and the price will be very cheap.  I really love Wieters since the hype has died down and he showed nice growth in second half of last season.  Even though Napoli in Texas, he will split with Yorvit Torrealba.
7.  Miguel Montero
8.  Matt Wieters
9.  Mike Napoli
10. Jorge Posada
11. Kurt Suzuki

Tier 4-The dumpster of catchers.  Iannetta is intriguing since the team will give him a big shot this season but we have seen his act before and it wasn't good.  One more try.  Try not to get stuck with one of these guys.
12. Ryan Doumit
13. Miguel Olivo
14. Chris Iannetta
15. JP Arrencibia

So once again catcher is hit or miss but I believe the right way to go is to get someone from Tier 2 or 3 and get a more big time stat filler in the round it would take to get someone from Tier 1.  It will be the right move to do.

DONT WORRY! I HAVENT FORGOTTEN ABOUT FANTASY FOOTBALL

Will fantasy baseball getting into gear, the majority of the coverage will be dedicated to that sport for now but I will be starting on my 2011 Fantasy Football Draft Guide soon once the Super Bowl ends so dont fret Gridiron Fans.  I will have it all covered as usual. 

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT TOSS UP: JOSH JOHNSON/CC SABBATHIA

Time to settle another debate in the 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Toss Up and today we look at the Florida Marlins' Josh Johnson and the New York Yankees' CC Sabbathia.  Both guys are no doubt fantasy baseball ace pitchers who can lead your rotation all season.  Both guys also are being drafted within 12 picks of each other according to early mocks drafts and so today we compare the two in all four starting pitching ROTO categories along with intangibles so we can figure out who is deserving of being picked above the other. 

ERA:  Both guys were tremendous in this stat last season as Sabbathia put up a 3.18 ERA while Johnson had a much better 2.30 mark.  It does need to be mentioned that Johnson had a beneficial strand rate but pitching in the NL East is a like playing golf compared to the AL East where its like sitting in traffic.  The huge difference in division strength is the big deciding factor here.
Advantage:  Josh Johnson

WHIP:  Both guys once again excelled here with Johnson's 1.11 to Sabbathia's 1.15.  Sabbathia has seen his hit rate increase the last three years and again the ballpark difference can show up here.  Either way this one is very close with a slight edge to Johnson.
Advantage:  Josh Johnson

Wins:  Despite all of his brilliance, Johnson won only 11 games last season and that speaks to the struggling Marlins offense not supplying runs for him to win.  Sabbathia on the other hand has one of the best lineups supporting him and so a run at 20 wins is a given.
Advantage:  CC Sabbathia

Strikeouts:  Sabbathia has struck out exactly 197 batters the last two season with Johnson coming in at 191 and 186.  Its close once again but Sabbathia has consistently been in the 200 neighborhood while Johnson's has failed to get closer than 9 away which came in one season.
Advantage:  CC Sabbathia

Intangibles:  A big intangible is age between these two as Johnson is turning 27 this season to Sabbathia's 31.  Although Sabbathia is not old by any means, his ceiling has already been reached while Johnson is still on his way up to having possibly a huge season.  Sabbathia has seen his hit rate increase for three years running and during one of these seasons all those insane innings he has pitched will rear their ugly head.  The untapped potential regarding Johnson wins this category.
Advantage:  Josh Johnson

WINNER:  Josh Johnson

As always this was very close but in my opinion Johnson is the better choice based on the fact he still has room to grow while Sabbathia has the much tougher division and numbers that have crested and even slightly showing slippage. When looking at these two in your draft, go with the upside.

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL DEEP SLEEPER: JAMES MCDONALD SP PITTSBURGH PIRATES


Once again the end of your drafts this season should be the time where you go upside upside upside and ignore the tried and true mediocre vets like the Aaron Harang's of the world.  One such guy that fits the deep sleeper upside category is Pittsburgh Pirates' SP James McDonald who finished his 2010 season with some very intriguing results that placed him on the map of the fantasy baseball world.  In 64 innings with the Pirates after being dealt from the Los Angeles Dodgers, McDonald pitched to a 3.52 ERA with 61 K in 64 IP.  During that time, McDonald showed off his greatest asset which is his high 90's fastball which has piled up the strikeouts since being drafted by the Dodgers.  It it that tantalizing weapon which fantasy baseball owners are intrigued by and which makes McDonald a deep sleeper pick for 2011.  Lets take a closer look at what he has in store for this season. 

James McDonald was originally drafted by the Dodgers in the 11th round of the 2002 draft and it took him some time to reach the majors.  McDonald made a small appearance in each of the 2008 and 2009 seasons but manager Joe Torre never seemed to be able to find a role for him.  He once again failed to make the team out of spring training and struggled in his brief recall in July before being traded to the Pirates.  The problem that kept McDonald from sticking was some downright horrendous control as he has walked 64 batters in only 140 major league innings pitched.  It is this lack of control that will keep McDonald's WHIP on the high side and also prevent him from pitching deep into games thus costing him wins. 

There is no doubt the walks and potential loss of wins are significant issues for McDonald but there are also some big positives starting with his strikeouts.  Throughout his minor league stay and even during his time in the majors, McDonald has piled up the strikeouts as befitting a man who has a fastball that touches 98 mph.  It is this asset which could lead McDonald to fantasy baseball relevancy and make him a very good back end starter. 

All in all, James McDonald perfectly fits the criteria for a late round sleeper that can easily exceed their draft position.  The strikeouts alone make him someone to pay attention to and the ceiling here is completely untapped.  Take a shot with this live gunslinger.

2011 PROJECTION:  11-7 4.22 ERA 188 K 1.34 WHIP

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT SLEEPER: BRETT ANDERSON SP OAKLAND A'S


Its very rare when a player in fantasy baseball can make the SLEEPER list twice in two years but that's just the case when it comes to Oakland A's SP Brett Anderson.  Right before the 2010 season, Anderson was everyone's favorite fantasy baseball pitching sleeper and he no doubt was drafted with the expectation of near ace-like stats all year long.  Well things didn't go according to plan however as Anderson's season was interrupted twice by elbow issues that required DL stints and he wound up only throwing 112 innings.  Despite the setbacks, Anderson actually pitched very well in those 112 innings to the tune of a 7-6 record with a 2.80 ERA, 1.19 WHIP and 75 K.s  Once again we got to see a glimpse of what a potentially ace type starter could be and so Anderson for the second season in a row is appearing on sleeper lists as a result.  Due to last season's injuries and the fact he is no longer considered the NOW guy, his price will be much cheaper in 2011 and so Brett Anderson certainly qualifies as a sleeper who can easily outproduce his draft spot.  Lets see whats in store for Anderson this season.

As far as Anderson and his game is concerned, there is a ton to like about the southpaw.  His biggest asset no doubt is the uncanny control he has at such a young age as he will turn only 23 this season and so he will always be a WHIP boost as a result.  Guys that don't beat themselves with the walk have a huge advantage going in and so Anderson right off the bat is ahead of the game when it comes to his starts.  On top of the control, Anderson also has sneaky strikeout stuff which he showcased the second half of the 2010 season with 86 K's in 88 innings pitched.  He is not a power arm by any means but Anderson has stuff that drafts all around and induces a bunch of swings and misses.  Think of someone like a Chris Carpenter as a good comparison here.  So it wouldn't be a shock to see Anderson get up to the 170 strikeout level if he can maintain good health.  When you combine those K's with the very good WHIP, things are looking really good.

Whats also very impressive about Anderson is the fact he has a very impressive 3.57 ERA through 287 major league innings which is incredible at such a young age.  Oftentimes it takes a guy until his age 25 or 26 season to look as comfortable as Anderson has and so things can only get better from here.  In fact Anderson's stuff is so good that an ERA in the high 2.00 range would not be surprising.

Now despite all the good points in Anderson's game, there is the big issue of his health which was horrible last season.  Having to go on the DL twice because of elbow problems is a huge red flag that could rear its ugly head again at a moments notice.  There is talk that Anderson's delivery is the problem and that it causes tons of stress on the joint which could lead to further complications.  It could be likely that Anderson experiences a setback again this season if he doesn't smooth it out.  No doubt having a starter make trips to the DL is more than frustrating and so you have to ask yourself how much risk are you willing to take here.

All in all, I still believe Brett Anderson makes a very good fantasy baseball sleeper for this season.  The talent is way to tantalizing to ignore despite the injury red flags.  Now by all means I am not saying to go out and reach way too high for him.  The injury risk makes that a bad move but going a round or two earlier would be all right if its toward the end of the single digit numbered rounds.  The ceiling is extremely high here so the payoff should be substantial here.

2011 PROJECTION:  14-7 3.35 ERA 159 K 1.17 WHIP

Sunday, January 30, 2011

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL "MY GUYS": COLE HAMELS SP PHILADELPHIA PHILLIES


Its been awhile since I did a "MY GUYS"  feature and so today we take a look at Philadelphia Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels and the reasons why I make it a point to draft the guy every season.  As we head into the 2011 fantasy baseball season, I am as high on Hamels as ever and will be all out to own him once again.  Lets see what is it about the guy I love so much.

First lets do a quick rehash.  2010 was a very kind season to Hamels who regained his reputation as one of the best young power pitchers in the game.  Hamels finished the year with a deceptive 12-11 record with a top notch 3.06 ERA, 1.18 WHIP, and 211 K in 208 IP.  No doubt he was great all the way through and those who drafted him heading into 2010 made a big profit.  I was one of those who made this profit on both of my money league teams and I felt extra vindicated due to the fact I fought all spring training long with people who thought I was nuts to be so high on a guy who was coming off a 2009 season where he put a 4.32 ERA with a 1.29 WHIP with a losing 10-11 record.  Ah lets go back and revisit that shall we?

The 2009 season was one that certainly caused a big debate when it came to evaluating Hamels for the next season but not in this corner.  To me there were two very simple explanations for why Hamels struggled throughout that year and nothing more.  For one, Hamels had just come off a World Series winning season where he threw an obscene 262 IP at the age of only 25.  Hamels blew through the recommended 30 innings increase from one season to the next for young pitchers and so it was almost a given that he was going to struggle in 2009 and not have as much behind his pitches as a result of that jump.  That's exactly what happened as Hamels saw a drop in his K-rate while walking more batters than usual.  The second issue that season was that Hamels had some very bad luck on the batted ball as he had a very high BABIP which helped explain some of the rise in ERA and WHIP.  BABIP of course has a very good chance of evening out the next season and I was fully confident of this happening. 

Needless to say, Hamels turned right back into the stud I knew he was all along in 2010 as the power was back behind his fastball and his luck evened out with his BABIP score.  Hence the turn back to his pre-2009 stats.  Also whats even more encouraging was that Hamels made strides in his biggest struggle which was the home run ball.  He lowered his fly ball rate in 2010 which in turn reduced those deadly home runs that used to sabotage outings on occasion.  Less home runs equal less earned runs and so Hamels looks primed for another big season as we head into spring training.  I will be hard after the guy once again and in my opinion he is very close to SP 1 status.  Either way no matter where he fits in your rotations, Cole Hamels will be a upper tier starter for your roster all season for sure.

2011 PROJECTION:  15-9 3.15 ERA 210 K 1.17 WHIP

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: GIVE BLUE JAYS 2B AARON HILL ANOTHER CHANCE


It quite possibly was the worst performance by any infielder in all of fantasy baseball last season and just by reading that sentence, the image of Toronto Blue Jays 2B Aaron Hill surely shot right to the forefront of your mind without much thinking.  No doubt Hill deserved such negative accolades as his .205 batting average over 528 at-bats was almost hard to fathom.  The rest of his line was no picnic either as his more than solid 26 home runs were accompanied by only 68 RBI and 70 runs scored from a guy who was coming off a 36 home runs/108 RBI/103 R explosion the year before.  Hill undoubtedly was selected very high in all drafts before last season and so many of these owners saw their season go up in smoke as a result.  So as we head toward the 2011 fantasy baseball season, I am here to tell you to do your best with trying to erase those awful 2010 memories from your mind and strongly consider giving Hill one more shot this season.  In the end I really believe Aaron Hill will be one of the best values in the game and  I am here to tell you why.

The first item of discussion that needs to be referenced here is the fact that Hill posted one of the most unlucky seasons in recent memory as far as BABIP is concerned.  Specifically speaking, Hill put up an obscenely low .196 BABIP mark which is a number that hasn't been seen that low in over a decade for someone with so many at-bats.  That basically means that Hill got absolutely no breaks when it came to the batted ball and his career batting average was a very good .285 entering 2010.  When you consider that a league average BABIP is in the .300 neighborhood, you can easily see just how much average growth Hill will see this season.  In fact it wouldn't be a shock to me if he got all the way up to the .280 mark in 2011.  That's how bad his luck was in 2010. 

Another issue to talk about is the fact that Hill still cracked 26 home runs during all those struggles last season which trailed only Dan Uggla, Robinson Cano, and Rickie Weeks.  Very good company for sure.  With his luck changing for the better, more shots should end up in the seats as well and a return to the 30 homer mark is likely with even more possible.  Already possibly looking at a .280 average with 30 home runs?  Whats not to love here?  This is all entirely possible for Hill this season for sure.

Now Hill has to do his part here and I am referring to his tendency to swing for the fences last season which was shown in an extreme fly ball rate.  No doubt Hill and the Toronto coaching staff have hammered home this point and I doubt Hill will resist after going through that humiliation last season.  Look for his rate of fly balls hit to normalize to his usual levels which will further improve his average and overall line.

All in all, I truly believe that Aaron Hill makes a great value in 2011 fantasy baseball drafts.  His price will be much cheaper from last season and at a shallow position like second base, the numbers he could supply will clinch a positive draft result.  Give the guy a bat on the bat and say all his forgiven.  You wont be sorry.

2011 PROJECTION:  .277 BA 88 R 32 HR 92 RBI 4 SB

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL ISSUES: WHAT TO DO ABOUT FADING VETS?


The 2010 fantasy baseball season was one that saw a large number of veteran players on the wrong side of 30 have poor seasons that caused many to wonder if they were done being contributors to our fake game.  Guys such as Carlos Lee, Derrek Lee, and Derek Jeter all showed signs of age and decline and so one has to wonder if they are worthy of fantasy baseball consideration for 2011.  Lets take a look at some of these names and find out whether they are worth another shot.

Derrek Lee:  Lee fell flat on his face last season with only 19 home runs while hitting only .260.  This was a far cry from the 35 home run bonanza of 2009 but that season was the anomaly for Lee.  Looking back at his last five seasons, 2009 was the outlier.  Lee was the victim of a poor BABIP last season so his average will come back up but expecting more than 20-25 home runs is unrealistic.  He signed with Baltimore in the offseason and at 35 Lee is the same age as Paul Konerko so he could have one more decent but not great season in his body.
Get Him or Leave Him:  GET HIM

Derek Jeter:  Jeter no doubt is the most talked about superstar coming off a down year with his contract negotiations becoming very public this offseason.  Jeter has been down this road before with a poor 2008 season causing some to question his ability but he came right back and had a huge 2009 season.  You cant count out someone with as much pride as Jeter and in this lineup he is at least guaranteed to put up huge runs with a solid average.  The shortstop position is so shallow that Jeter is still worth your attention.
Get Him or Leave Him:  GET HIM

John Lackey:  That free agent signing didn't go as planned for the Sox as Lackey has his worst season by far since coming up with the Angels as a kid.  No doubt the move from the poor hitting AL West to the monstrous AL East could be the main reason but Lackey also showed a decline in his K-rate which proved deadly.  The division is a beast and Lackey is another year older for someone who hasn't had great health in his career.
Get Him or Leave Him:  LEAVE HIM

Carlos Lee:  This one hits me hard as Lee was a one of "My Guys" that I owned seemingly every season.  I sensed before last season it was time to get out and I was proved prophetic as his batting average plummeted to .246 and his home runs declines for the fourth season in a row.  Big guys such as Lee don't age well but this is still a pretty professional hitter who suffered from a very low BABIP in the first half of 2010.  Lee's season after April was more in line with what he had done his last few seasons and he now has added 1B eligibility.  This is a decent backup OF to stash in case of injuries.
Get Him or Leave Him:  GET HIM

Lance Berkman:  The bottom fell out for Berkman who looks like a platoon player now due to extreme struggles against lefties.  His power also fell off the map as injuries have seemed to sap his strength.  He takes his bat to St. Louis now to play the outfield so increased risk of injury is in play for this fading star.
Get Him or Leave Him:  LEAVE HIM

So there you have it.  Certainly some of these guys have some value left for owners to use for 2011 but some need the fork stuck in them for sure.  Be careful here but if the price is right than take a shot.

2011 FANTASY BASEBALL DRAFT TOSS UP: JUSTIN MORNEAU/KENDRY MORALES

Another day and another 2011 Fantasy Baseball Draft Toss Up and today we look deeper in the first base position and focus on two guy coming off very different injuries that ruined their 2010 seasons.  I am referring of course to Minnesota Twins 1B Justin Morneau who missed the entire second half of the season and all the playoffs with a concussion and the Anaheim Angels' Kendry Morales who suffered a bizarre broken leg during a home plate celebration after a walkoff home run.  Needless to say both guys have a ton of question marks attached to their previously well-regarded names and so they make a perfect faceoff subject.  As always I will compare the two in all five of the ROTO categories along with the intangibles.  Lets get to it.

Average:  Justin Morneau has been literally all over the map in average in his career as he has had marks of .239 all the way up to last seasons's .345.  There has been zero consistency in his averages and so he is very tough to forecast in this respect.  One thing to keep in mind though is last year's mark was helped by a good BABIP.  As far as Morales is concerned, he put up some huge average seasons in the minors and proceeded to hit .306 and .290 his first two years as a regular.  Morales had minor league marks in the .330 range and so he is the much more stable guy for sure here.
Advanatge:  Kendry Morales

Runs:  Neither guy has even scored more than 100 runs and they figure to fall in the 80-95 range with good health.  Both hit in the same spot in the batting order so no advantage can be determined here.
Advantage:  EVEN

Home Runs:  Morneau's career high in homers is the 34 that Morales hit in 2009.  Now Morales had a very high fly ball rate during that season and it was a level he had never approached before so he likely is more of a 25-30 home run guy.  Be that as it may, both guys have very good pop but not to the point they can enter Ryan Howard or even Joey Votto territory.  Once again they are too close to call here.
Advantage:  EVEN

RBI:  Morneau wins this one easily as he has had some huge RBI seasons in his career.  Having a huge on-base guy ahead of him in the order in Joe Mauer ensures that there will be plenty of guys on base for him to drive in.  Morales is no slouch but the top of the Angels order is aging and not as strong as the Twins.
Advantage:  Justin Morneau

Stolen Bases:  Nothing to discuss here as both run like they are in mud.
Advantage:  EVEN

Intangibles:  This is where things straighten out for a number of reasons.  The first is that Morneau has not even been cleared for full baseball activities yet as he still seems to be affected by the concussion.  This is not a good sign and no doubt one more shot to the head could end it for him as a ballplayer.  As far as Morales is concerned, he is already back swinging a bat and will be 100 percent for spring training.  Another factor to look at is the fact Morneau is a terrible second half hitter which is a big black mark in my book.  I want guys who can help me when fantasy baseball titles are settled and Morneau vanishes at this time period.  Also Target Field was THE toughest place to hit a home run last season and so Morneau likely will lose some pop here.  On and on it goes.  Clearly Morales has fewer issues you have to think about and so he gets the nod.
Advantage:  Kendry Morales

WINNER:  Kendry Morales

Despite this debate seemingly being close, I don't consider it tight.  I favor Morales in a much bigger manner for all the reasons and I stated and more.  Morneau has a ton of issue hanging over his head and one shot to his noggin could end things for good.  I don't want that worry on my mind and neither should you.  Take Morales and enjoy the discount. 

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