Archive for February, 2009

Santana’s Season May Be In Jeopardy….

February 28, 2009

According to NY Newsday, Mets ace Johan Santana is out indefinitely with a sore elbow. According to the report, Santana met with Jerry Manuel and and GM Omar Minaya this morning about the best way to handle his situation.

Santana will throw a bullpen session tomorrow and if he still feels pain in his elbow, the Mets will send him back to NY for tests. If Santana is out for an extended period of time or perhaps the season, it would be a devastating blow to the already fragile Mets. The loss of Santana would end the Mets season before it even starts.

The Mets need to get off to a good start this year to erase the painful memories of last season’s collapse. The potential loss of Santana would only add to Mets pain.

Updates on this story as they break.

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Hawpe Out Of WBC….

February 28, 2009

In a span of 24 hours, Team USA has lost their starting CF in Grady Sizemore and now it appears they have lost their starting RF in Brad Hawpe. According to MLB.com, Brad Hawpe will miss the WBC because of a lacerated pinkie finger.

Hawpe will not play in the WBC

Hawpe will not play in the WBC

Team USA has not announced a replacement for Hawpe. Orioles RF, Nick Markakis would have been the most logical choice but he previously declined an invitation.  I am not sure who Team USA is going to get to replace Hawpe. Matt Kemp? Corey Hart? Ryan Ludwick?

Players are droping like flies for this event. The more players drop out, the more it proves my point that the World Baseball Classic is baseball’s version of the Pro Bowl.

Victorino To Replace Sizemore In WBC….

February 28, 2009

Cleveland Indians star CF, Grady Sizemore will miss the World Baseball Classic because of a sore groin. Sizemore will be replaced by the “Flyin Hawaiian” Shane Victorino. It is pretty clear that Team USA’s strategy in the World Baseball Classic is to win with speed, defense and a solid bullpen

In my opinion, if I had to pick one OF to start my team with it would be Sizemore. So this is a big blow to Team USA. In my “Looking At Team USA’s Roster” post, I believed Sizemore would bat leadoff and play CF for Team USA. Curtis Granderson would seem to be the likely choice to replace Sizemore in both CF and in the lead off spot.

Saberhagen Theory Applies To Beckett…..

February 27, 2009

If you believe in the Bret Saberhagen Theory then Josh Beckett is poised to have a big year for the Red Sox in 2009. For those of you who are not familiar with the Bret Saberhagen Theory, I will explain.

Bret Saberhagen was one of the best pitchers in baseball and one of my favorite players to watch from 1984 – 2001, pitching for the Royals, Mets, Rockies and Red Sox. But it was from 1984-1991 with the Royals where Saberhagen had his most success. Saberhagen in those 8 years was 110-78, had a era of 3.27, won 2 Cy Young Awards and a World Series title in 1985. Despite all of his success, Saberhagen was rather inconsistent in those years. He had an uncanny ability to pitch extremely well in odd years and pitch below his standards in even years. Take a look:

Even Years

84. 10-11 3.48                                        

86. 7-12 4.15

88. 14-16 3.80

90. 5-9 3.27

Odd Years

85. 20-6 2.87 Cy Young

87. 18-10 3.36

89. 23-6 2.16 Cy Young

91. 13-8 3.07

As you can see, a pretty significant difference between even years and odd years. Thus, the Saberhagen Theory was created. If there is a pitcher in today’s game where the Saberhagen Theory might apply….it would be Red Sox ace, Josh Beckett. Beckett has been rather mediocre in even years and very good in odd years. Take a look

Even Years

02. 6-7 4.10

04. 9-9 3.79

06. 16-11 5.01

08. 12-10 4.03

Odd Years

01. 2-2 1.50

03. 9-8 3.04 World Series MVP

05. 15-8 3.38

07. 20-7 3.27 ALCS MVP

To sum up Beckett, in even years he is 43-27 with a 4.23 era and in odd years he is 46-25 with a 2.80 era. Pretty amazing for someone as talented as Beckett.

So if you believe the Saberhagen Theory applies to Josh Beckett and coupled with Beckett showing up to Spring Training in the best shape of his life, then Beckett should once again be one of the top pitchers in 2009.

Cubs Offseason Moves Puzzling….

February 27, 2009

At the end of every offseason your favorite team will fall into 4 categories:

1. Improved team through free agency spending. Yankees & Braves

2. Improved team through trade(s). A’s & Royals

3. Kept quiet, not making any major signings or trades. Cardinals

4.Traded players and lost players to free agency because team is rebuilding or economy affected the team. Padres & Astros

The Chicago Cubs, fresh off of a 97-win season somehow managed to fit into all 4 categories. They signed free agents and made trades, but let some of their top free agents go. Thus, making the Cubs offseason truly puzzling. Let’s take a look at some of the players the cubs brought in this offseason and who they replaced from that 97-win team.

Closer

In – Carlos Marmol, Cubs 8th inning set-up man in 2008

Out – Kerry Wood, Signed free agent contract with Indians

Analysis – Carlos Marmol takes over for Kerry Wood as the Cubs closer. This is either going to end up very good or very very bad. There will be no gray area with Marmol. Some guys can make the transition from 8th inning set-up guy (Krod, M. Rivera) and some guys can’t (Benitez, Dotel). I just don’t see it from Marmol. I am going to put him in the Benitez, Dotel class.  Before you start disagreeing with me, remember this. Marmol in save situations in 2008 had a 3.22 era. In non-save situations, his era was 2.11.

Set-Up Man

In –Aaron Heilman/Kevin Gregg, both acquired via trade

Out –Carlos Marmol, promoted to closer

Analysis –Failing to re-sign Wood created a ripple effect in the Cubs bullpen. Marmol replaces Wood and Heilman and Gregg will attempt to replace Marmol. Heilman, was actually traded twice this offseason. First to the Mariners and then of course to the Cubs. After being one of the top set-up men in the game from 05-07, Heilman had a meltdown last year with the Mets. A 5.21 era and 46 bb in 76 innings put Heilman in the doghouse.

Gregg, was having a solid season for the Marlins last year until he melted down in August. An 0-4 record with a 10.12 era earned Gregg a demotion from Marlins closer to set-up guy. The Cubs acquired 2 guys who had meltdowns last year. It will be interesting to see how both Heilman and Gregg react when they blow their first 8th inning lead and the Wrigleyville faithful boo them off the mound.

2nd Base

In – Aaron Miles, signed as free agent/Mike Fontenot, bench player in 2008

Out –Mark DeRosa, traded to Indians for 3 minor leaguers

Analysis – This is where the Cubs offseason gets interesting. Cubs GM, Jim Hendry traded the heart and soul of the team last year for 3 minor leaguers. Not only was DeRosa the heart and soul but he also was one of the Cubs MVP’s last year if not the MVP. DeRosa hit .285/21/87/.376 and played 2b, 3b, lf, rf, ss and 1B last year. He replaced Soriano in LF when Soriano went on the DL, he filled in for Fukodome when he was struggling and he gave Ramirez a day off at 3B from time to time. No matter where DeRosa played, the Cubs’ lineup never suffered. How do you trade one of your MVP’s from the year before, in what seems like a salary dump and then go ahead and sign Aaron Miles to a 2 year $4.9MM deal? Just doesn’t make sense. Though Miles can play 2b, ss, 3b and all 3 OF positions, he just can’t match DeRosa’s offensive output. In 6 seasons, Miles has 16 hr and 170 rbi. I am completely puzzled by this move.

Center Field

In – Reed Johnson, 4th OF on Cubs in 2008

Out –Jim Edmonds, free agent remains unsigned

Analysis – The Cubs signed former Cardinal, Jim Edmonds in May and he gave them the spark they were looking for.  Edmonds hit 19 hr with 49 rbi in 85 games. Unless the Cubs resign Edmonds right before the season starts, they will go into 2009 with Reed Johnson as their starting CF. Johnson to me seems more like a great role player and bench guy rather than a starting CF on a team trying to win the pennant. Johnson has never had more than 12 hr and 61 rbi in a season.

Right Field

In – Milton Bradley, signed as free agent

Out –Kosuke Fukodome, 4th OF for Cubs in 2009

Analysis – If the Mark DeRosa trade was puzzling, the Milton Bradley signing defies logic. Give a guy a 3 year $30MM contract to play RF who has only played 23 games in RF the last 2 years and is injury prone? This signing could be a disaster. Who would you rather have…Bobby Abreu for 1 year and $5MM or Milton Bradley for 3 years and $30MM? I would rather have Abreu. The odd man out in the Cubs OF shuffle is Kosuke Fukodome. After having a dismal 2nd half in 2008 (.217/3/22) Fukodome found himself in Piniella’s doghouse. A place were Fukodome may never get out of.

I tought Fukodome deserved a 2nd chance. Remember, it was Fukodome’s patience at the plate (81 BB in 2008) that was contagious throughout the Cubs lineup early in the season. Plus, he is a much better defensive player than Bradley. Piniella is a great manager but one of his faults is when a player get’s into his doghouse, there are no 2nd chances. Just ask Rich Hill.

As you can see, this Cubs offseason has been very puzzling. In my opinion, an offseason where the Cubs have gotten worse. I do believe the Cubs will win the weak NL Central this year but is team better than last years version of the Cubs? Based on the offseason, it might be 101 years without a title in Wrigleyville.

Looking At Team USA’s Roster For The WBC…..

February 25, 2009

As I have written several times I am not a fan of the WBC. However, that doesn’t mean I won’t root for Team USA as I feel it is always important to route for your country any time you can. Tonight on the MLB Network, the final rosters were announced for the WBC. Let’s take a look at Team USA’s roster and what are there strengths and weaknesses.

Starting Pitchers

Jake Peavy, Ted Lilly, Jeremy Guthrie, Roy Oswalt

Relief Pitchers

JP Howell, Jonathon Broxton, Scot Shields, Brian Fuentes, Brad Ziegler, Matt Lindstrom, JJ Putz, BJ Ryan, Scott Thornton, Joe Nathan

Catchers

Chris Iannetta

Brian McCann

Infielders

Kevin Youkilis, Dustin Pedroia, Derek Jeter, Jimmy Rollins, David Wright, Chipper Jones, Mark DeRosa

Outfielders

Brad Hawpe, Grady Sizemore, Ryan Braun, Curtis Granderson

 

Potential Lineup

1. Grady Sizemore, CF

2. Derek Jeter, SS

3. Chipper Jones, DH

4. Ryan Braun, LF

5. Kevin Youkilis, 1B

6. David Wright, 3B

7. Brian McCann, C

8. Dustin Pedroia, 2B

9. Brad Hawpe, RF

 

Stengths

1. Bullpen – Team USA has put together a who’s who of top set up guys and closers. This is a smart move by Team USA because of the new pitch count rules for starters. Starters in the 1st round can only throw 70 pitches, 85 in the 2nd round and 100 in the semi-finals and finals. Knowing starters can only throw a certain amount of pitches in the WBC, Team USA built their team around it’s bullpen. They can match up against lefties late in the game with Fuentes and Thornton, if they need a strike out in the 7th inning they can bring in Lindstrom or Shields and if they need someone to close the game they can turn to either Broxton or Nathan. No team in the WBC has the bullpen Team USA does

2. Team Speed – Sizemore, Jeter, Pedroia, Granderson, Wright, Rollins and even Ryan Braun can steal a base. I think team speed is important in any type of baseball game but in particular an international game. Pitchers from countries such as Japan, Cuba, Venezuela, etc… usually take a little longer to get a pitch to home plate. Team USA can take advantage of this.

 

Weakness

1. Starting Rotation – I have no issues with Oswalt and Peavy, but is Ted Lilly and Jeremy Guthrie really the best Team USA can do?? Where is Lackey, Halladay, Lincecum, Lester, Haren, Webb or Greinke??? I understand there is a deemphasis on the starting rotation due to pitch counts but this is ridiculous. Lilly and Guthrie might not even get to 70 pitches. If Team USA doesn’t win, the starting rotation will be the reason.

 

Overall Analysis

This team from top to bottom is much better than the one that took the field in 2006 and they are determined to give a better showing than they did that year. Team USA will have their hands full with Venezuela, but at the end of the day I think they will win their group and go on to compete with Japan, Cuba and the Dominican Republic for the right to win the 2nd annual World Baseball Classic.

Looking At Fantasy 2nd Basemen In 2009…

February 23, 2009

It’s time to look at who are the best fantasy 2nd basemen headed into 2009. I always like to take the top 2B or SS early because finding a top hitting middle infielder is a hard to come by. They are few and far between.

In honor of latest Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, I have broken down this years 2B class by swimsuit model. Enjoy

Like this year's cover girl, Bar Refaeli these are the best of the best

Like this year's cover girl, Bar Refaeli these are the best of the best

1. Ian Kinsler, Rangers –Kinsler was tearing up major league pitching last year until a sports hernia injury ended his season in August. I like Kinsler a lot this year. He is the most complete 2B headed into 2009. He will give you hr, rbi, avg, obp and sb’s. If he can stay healthy for the whole season than a 25 hr/25 sb/90 rbi season is not out of the question.

2. Dustin Pedroia, Red Sox –The reigning AL MVP heads into 2009 as the 2nd best 2B on the board. The reason I have Pedroia 2nd is because I expect a little dip in his power numbers numbers (hr & rbi) from last year. Look for the heart and soul of the Red Sox to have a .320/14/75/.380 type season.

3. Chase Utley, Phillies –Any other year Utley is by far the #1 2B on the board. But because of offseason hip surgery, Utley’s ranking dips a little. The Phillies are optimistic about Utley being ready for Opening Day but you never know how someone is going to come back from hip surgery. April is key for Utley. If he looks healthy in April, then a typical Utley year of .295/28/95 is in order.

4. Brandon Phillips, Reds

not the cover girl, but like Brooklyn Decker these are the next best thing and nobody is complaining

not the cover girl, but like Brooklyn Decker these are the next best thing and nobody is complaining

 5. Brian Roberts, Orioles

6. Alexei Ramirez, White Sox – Alfonso Soriano part 2. A tall, lanky 2B who has all the potential in the world? Sounds like Alfonso Soriano part 2 to me. Ramirez had a solid rookie year putting up a .290/21/77 in just 480 ab’s. Now moving over to SS, Ramirez still will qualify at 2B for fantasy purposes which raises his stock even more. The only stat Ramirez hurts you in is obp (.317 last season) but a .300/25/90 with 10+ sb’s is not out of the question for Ramirez

7. Dan Uggla, Marlins – Most fans remember Uggla for his horrific performance in last years All-Star game which is unfortunate. Uggla is a terrific player and one of the most consistent producing 2B in the game. 3 straight years of 25+ hr’s and 85+ rbi proves that. Uggla had career highs in hr (32), rbi (92) and obp (.360) last year so similar numbers should be expected again in 2009.

8. Robinson Cano, Yankees –I don’t think Cano will ever again hit .342 like he did in 2006 but his power numbers and rbi totals should keep Cano a top 10 2B for years to come. 15+ hr’s and 80 rbi is realistic for Cano this year

9. Jose Lopez, Mariners

I would never kick Jessica Hart out of bed and you shouldn't kick these 4 guys out of your fantasy drafts

I would never kick Jessica Hart out of bed and you shouldn't kick these 4 guys out of your fantasy drafts

10. Mark DeRosa, Indians –DeRosa will qualify at 2B, 3B and OF but has the most value at 2B. DeRosa had a career year last year hitting .285 with 21 hr and 87 rbi for the Cubs. Leaving Wrigley will hurt DeRosa’s numbers a bit but 17 hr’s and 75 rbi is realistic for DeRosa in 2009

11. Howie Kendrick, Angels – Can this guy ever stay healthy?? Every year the Angels have depended on him to stay healthy and every year he has let them down. Kendrick has never played in more than 92 games in a season but I think this year Kendrick stays relatively healthy and plays in 130 games. If Kendrick can get to 130 games then .315/10/65 with 15+ steals is doable

11. Kelly Johnson, Braves

 12. Mike Aviles, Royals –Aviles qualifies at SS and at 2B but has more value at the 2B position. The New York native burst on to the scene last year and hit .325 with 10 hr and 51 rbi in just 102 games for the Royals. I like Aviles to hit .300 again but not .325. Look for a .310 avg with 15 hr and 60 rbi from Aviles in 2009

Alison Preston isn't a swimsuit model but she made the issue, these next 4 guys can play on your team too

Alison Preston isn't a swimsuit model but she made the issue, these next 5 guys can play on your team too

13. Rickie Weeks, Brewers –One of these years Weeks is going to break out. He has too much talent to be this mediocre for so long. I think he breaks out this year. By breakout, I mean .260/21/55/.375 with 20+ sb’s. It’s not much but it will do for now

14. Placido Polanco, Tigers

15. Orlando Hudson, Dodgers – You know what you are going to get from Hudson, .285 – .290 with 10 – 13 hr and 55-65 rbi. Going from Chase Field to Dodger Stadium might hurt his power #’s but if the Dodgers re-sign Manny then Hudson will benefit in the runs scored category.

16. Freddy Sanchez, Pirates

17. Mark Ellis, A’s

Shanon Lersch helped round out the Swimsuit Issue and these 4 guys will still help you round out your fantasy team

Shanon Lerschhelped round out the Swimsuit Issue andthese 5 guys will still help you round out your fantasy team

18. Kaz Matsui, Astros –Matsui will give you some value in the sb department but that is about it. He has only played in more than 100 games twice in 5 seasons so don’t count on him too much.

19. Felipe Lopez, Diamondbacks –  Want a sleeper for 2009? Take a look at Lopez. He will go into the season as the starting 2B and is playing in a good hitters ballpark. In 2005 he put up a nice .291/23/85 and in 2006 he stole 44 bases while hitting .274. A bounce back season in 2009 might be in order. Keep an eye on Lopez in April, if he gets off to a good start, snag him before someone else does.

20. Aaron Hill, Blue Jays

21. Akinori Iwamura, Rays

22. Clint Barmes, Rockies

Seeing Star Jones in a bathing suit is not pretty and neither is havin these guys on your fantasy team

Seeing Star Jones in a bathing suit is not pretty and neither is having these guys on your fantasy team

23. Mike Fontenot, Cubs –Fontenot will get you avg and obp but that is about it. A good “baseball player” but not a good “fantasy player”

24. Alexi Casilla, Twins

25. Edgar Gonzalez, Padres

26. Luis Castillo, Mets – Castillo enters the 2nd year of a ridiculous 4 year $25MM contract and boy do Mets fans hate this guy. Castillo only played in 87 games last year and hit a measly .245. At this point if Castillo is still the starting 2B by May (big if) then he might have some value in the runs scored category.

27. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians

28. Emmanuel Burriss, Giants

29. Edgar Gonzalez, Padres

30. Chris Getz, White Sox – With Alexei Ramirez moving to SS, Getz gets first crack at winning the 2B job

31. Anderson Hernandez, Nationals – Hernandez is officially your worst 2B option headed into 2009. No power, no speed and little potential for scoring runs.

So there you have the 2b rankings headed into 2009. As I mentioned I always like to draft a middle IF early because there are few good ones. Good luck and next up will be fantasy 3B.

Looking At The Week That Was In MLB….

February 22, 2009

Back from a much needed vacation and a week away from the computer, I thought I would take a look back at the week that was in MLB.

Albert Pujols Drops Out of WBC – Another crushing blow to the credibility of this tournament. How can this tournament be taken seriously when the best pitcher in the game, Johan Santana and the best hitter in the game, Albert Pujols aren’t participating?

Jeff Francis Out For Season – Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeff Francis will undergo surgery to repair a torn labrum flap and will be out for the season. To lose your ace before the season starts is a crushing blow to the Rockies’

Losing Francis is a crushing blow

Losing Francis is a crushing blow

playoff hopes. Francis was 17-9 for the Rockies in their World Series run of 2007 and looked like an ace in the making, but since then it has all been downhill for the big lefty from Canada. Look for either Greg Smith or top Rockies pitching prospect, Greg Reynolds to replace Francis in the rotation

Brian Roberts Agrees to Extension – The Orioles and Brian Roberts agreed to a 4 year $40MM extension. I like this move by the Orioles and there offseason in general. They signed their best player in Markakis to an extension, locked up one of the best lead-off hitters in the game in Roberts, traded for Felix Pie and Rich Hill who both needed a change of scenery and signed Ty Wiggington. The Orioles had been one of the most dysfunctional organizations in baseball throughout the 2000’s, so it’s good to seem them finally on the right track.

Nate McLouth Agrees to Extension – The Pirates and CF Nate McLouth agreed to a 3 year $15.75MM contract. McLouth who had a breakout season in 2008 put up an impressive .276/26/94/.356. He also swiped 23 bases to boot. Great value signing by the Pirates as McLouth is one of the rising stars in the game. Like Orioles previously, it’s good to see the Pirates starting to lock up their young players and begin to turn the corner.

Twins Sign Joe Crede – The Twins signed 3B Joe Crede to a 1 year $2.5MM contract. Crede, one of the best defensive 3B in the game fits in nicely with the Twins defense first mind set. The issue with Crede has been health. He only played 11 games in the 2nd half last season and only 47 games in 2007 because of a bad back. Not sure how Crede’s back will hold out on the hard surface of the Metrodome, but this is a low-risk, high-reward sign by the Twins.

Also on the Twins front, according to the Star Tribune, the Twins have made an offer to free agent relief pitcher Juan Cruz. This would be a NBA-esque sign and trade scenario. While so many teams are putting their wallets away, the Twins are going for it. I believed the Twins were the favorites in the AL Central before the Crede signing. If they can land both Crede and Cruz, then that only strengthens my belief.

Ken Griffey Jr Signs With Mariners – The man who helped save baseball in Seattle returns to perhaps play his final season in a Mariners uniform. Griffey figures to be the Mariners primary DH and occasionally play the OF in inter-league games. I can see why Griffey would return to Seattle but I am a little surprised he didn’t look for a team that would give him a chance to play in his first World Series. The Mariners are not expected to compete for a playoff spot this year.

The side story to this deal is that Griffey picked the Mariners over the Braves. It feels like the Braves have missed out on every free agent they have originally pursued this offseason. Smoltz, Burnett, Furcal, and now Griffey spurned the Braves this offseason. The Braves desperately need another OF. With Griffey now off the market, not sure where they are gonna go.

Dodgers Sign Orlando Hudson – The Dodgers signed 2b Orlando Hudson to a 1 year $3.4MM contract. Hudson can make another $4.6MM if he reaches certain incentives in 2009. What a steal for the Dodgers. To get

Hudson is a steal for the Dodgers

Hudson is a steal for the Dodgers

Hudson, a .282 lifetime hitter with 3 Gold Gloves for just $4.6MM is almost highway robbery. The Dodgers now have one of the best double-play combinations in the game with Furcal at SS and Hudson at 2b. Because Hudson is a Type A free agent, the Dodgers will surrender their 1st round pick (#17 overall) to the Diamondbacks. But is losing this pick such a big deal? I don’t believe it is. Out of all the drafts in the 4 major sports (yes, hockey is still considered a major sport), the major league baseball draft is the most inexact science. Let’s look at the #17 pick from the 1997 – 2006 major baseball draft:

1997 – John Curtice, P

1998 – Brad Lidge, RHP

1999 – Nick Asasdoorian, OF

2000 – Ben Diggins, RHP

2001 – Daniel Denham, RHP

2002 – Cole Hamels, LHP

2003 – David Murphy, OF

2004 – Scott Elbert, LHP

2005 – CJ Henry, SS

2006 – Matt Antonelli, 3B

That’s a pretty good sample size and as you can see, besides Cole Hamels and Brad Lidge there isn’t a lot of major league talent on that list. So losing the #17 pick in the draft isn’t as big of a deal as people make it out to be.

Also, Keith Law wonders where the Mets were in all of this? but I am wondering where the Cardinals were in this as well? As I wrote in my “Cardinals Offseason” post, I believed Hudson would have been a perfect fit for the Cardinals. I have a difficult time believing that the Cardinals organization thinks that Skip Schumaker is a better alternative at 2B than Orlando Hudson.

It was a pretty eventful week throughout baseball. If you noticed I didn’t mention Alex Rodriguez’s press conference where he made even more of an idiot out of himself than he already has. I don’t think it’s worth writing anymore about a compulsive liar who embarrasses himself by the day.

Looking At Fantasy Catchers in 2009….

February 16, 2009

There might be no other position in baseball where the difference between #1 and #30 is so great. That is the dilemma fantasy owners face when it comes time to draft a catcher. If you don’t get one of the 10 best, then you are really stuck picking from the bottom of the barrel. To make sure you don’t draft the bottom of the barrel guy, here are the 2009 fantasy rankings for catchers.

Johnny Bench Division

These are the best of the best at the catcher position. These are the guys you want to draft as your #1 catcher

1. Joe Mauer, Twins – Despite offseason kidney surgery, Mauer remains the #1 fantasy catcher in baseball. The 2-time batting champ won’t get you home runs, but will get you rbi’s, obp, avg and hits.

2. Brian McCann, Braves

3. Geovany Soto, Cubs

4. Russell Martin, Dodgers – Martin slipped a little in 2008 by posting lower avg, hr and rbi totals than he did in 2007. I expect Martin to have a bounce back year in 2009 and Martin does steal bases (49 career sb’s in 3 seasons) which makes him unique amongst catchers.

5. Chris Iannetta, Rockies – Ladies and gentleman, your 2009 fantasy breakout catcher. In only 333 ab’s in 2008, Iannetta posted a .261/18/65/.390 line. At 25 and now the Rockies #1 catcher headed into the season, Iannetta should break out in 2009. If Iannetta can get to 140 games caught, expect a .275/24/85/.380 stat line.

Ted Simmons Division

These catchers are a notch below the top 5 but can serve as #1 catchers on your fantasy team. Like Ted Simmons, these catchers don’t grab the headlines but can put up some nice stats for your team.

6. Bengie Molina, Giants – Quick, how many people knew that Molina put up a .292/16/95 line last year? The best hitting Molina brother had close to 100 rbi last year…amazing. The reason Molina doesn’t crack the top 5 is because he is 34 and will be hard pressed to duplicate last season. .278/15/75 is more likely for Molina this year.

7. Victor Martinez, Indians

8. Mike Napoli, Angels – Napoli smacked an impressive 20 hr in just 227 ab’s last season for the Angels. Napoli is not the best defensive catcher in the world, which hurts his playing time. If Napoli can improve behind the plate, it will mean more ab’s. 25-30 hr’s is not out of the question for Napoli in 2009.

9. Ryan Doumit, Pirates – Occasionally the Pirates will have someone who makes a top 10 list. Because Doumit plays on the Pirates, he flew under the radar last season. He posted a nice .318/15/69 while playing in a career high 116 games. Doumit never hit more than .274 with 9 hr’s in a season before last season so there is a chance that last season was a fluke. I don’t think it was. Look for Doumit to post similar numbers again in 2009.

Terry Steinbach Division

Much like Steinbach for most of his career, these catchers are good for 10-15 hr’s and 50-60 rbi.

10. Chris Snyder, Diamondbacks

11. Jorge Posada, Yankees – After having a career year in 2007, Posada missed much of the 2008 season with a shoulder injury. Now at 37, Posada is at the tail end of his career and his .338/20/90 2007 might have been his last great fantasy season. Look for Posada to have a season similar to his 1999 season. Which was a .245/12/57 line.

12. Ramon Hernandez, Reds

13. AJ Pierzynski, White Sox

14. Brandon Inge, Tigers – Inge is slated to be the Tigers opening day 3B headed into 2009 but he does qualify at the catcher position based on his work from last season. Inge has much more value as a catcher than he does a 3b. 10-15 hr’s and 50-60 rbi is realistic for Inge.

Terry Kennedy Division

The very last guys you want to take before you head down Desperation Rd.

15. Dioner Navarro, Rays

16. Kelly Shoppach, Indians – Shoppach enjoyed a breakout season in 2008 due mainly to the absence of Victor Martinez and Travis Hafner. Now with both players back, it will be difficult for Shoppach to crack the lineup. However, it’s worth taking a flier on Shoppach because if Hafner can’t make it back from injury, then he might get some time at DH.

Tony Pena Division

If any of these guys are your #1 catcher headed into the season, then you might be in serious trouble.

17. Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Rangers

18. Gerald Laird, Tigers

19. Jason Varitek, Red Sox

20. Yadier Molina, Cardinals

21. Kenji Johjima, Mariners

22. Kurt Suzuki, A’s

23. Miguel Olivo, Royals

24. Rod Barajas, Blue Jays

25. Jason Kendall, Brewers

26. Nick Hundley, Padres

27. Brian Schneider, Mets

28. John Baker, Marlins

29. Humberto Quintero, Astros

30. Jesus Flores, Nationals

31. Gregg Zaun, Orioles

Matt Wieters Division

32. Matt Wieters, Orioles – This is Ryan Braun and Evan Longoria part 3. Clearly ready for the majors, Wieters will most likely start the season off in AAA because the team wants to delay an arbitration year. When he is eventually is called up, Wieters has the ability to be a top 5 catcher. A switch-hitting catcher with his power comes along only so often. If you are in a keeper league and need a catcher, Wieters should be your #1 choice.

So there you have the catcher fantasy rankings for 2009. As you can see, almost half the league is undraftable. Make sure you get 1 of those top 10 guys, because if you get stuck with Brian Schneider, then it might be a long season ahead.

Baseball’s Best Starting Rotation….

February 15, 2009

In the next installment of “Baseball’s Best”, we are going to take a look at the backbone of any team. The starting rotation. So which team has baseball’s best rotation headed into 2009? We hope to figure that out today by ranking the teams in 4 categories :

1. Depth – A team needs to go at least 4 deep in their starting rotation. No 1 ace, 4 average pitchers teams on this list. Sorry Blue Jay fans

2. Ace – A great starting rotation needs an ace. A pitcher who can stop a losing streak and a guy we have no problem giving the ball to in Game 7 of the World Series

3. Innings Pitched – The mark of any good staff is to have the ability to go deep into games and save the bullpen. A great staff has pitchers who can pitch into the 7th inning

4. ERA –  Staff era is always a factor in determining who has the best rotation

Rankings for both Innings Pitched and ERA were based on Bill James’ 2009 projections. Here are the 10  best starting rotations headed into 2009:

Category ranking is in ( ).

6 – 10. Cincinnati Reds, Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim, Arizona Diamondbacks, Minnesota Twins, Tampa Bay Rays

5. Philadelphia Phillies

Rankings – Depth (9), Ace (3), IP (3), ERA (10)

Rotation – Hamels, Myers, Blanton, Moyer, Happ

Analysis – The Phillies bring back the same staff, included the ageless Jaime Moyer (who might pitch until he is 70) that led them to the World Series in 2008. Led by Cole Hamels, the Phillies should once again have one of the better staffs in baseball. In my “Looking at 2010 to Predict 2009” post, I believed Brett Myers was a pitcher who could have a breakout 2009 based on his pending free agency in 2010. If Myers does have a breakout season, the Phillies rotation and the rest of the team will have a chance to defend their World Series crown.

4. Chicago Cubs

Rankings – Depth (6), Ace (7), IP (3), ERA (9)

Rotation –Zambrano, Harden, Dempster, Lilly, Marshall

Analysis –Though the Cubs are high on the list of best rotations, some of their starters will be hard pressed to duplicate their 2008 seasons. The Cubs got 17 wins each out of Tedd Lilly and Ryan Dempster last season. That will not happen again. Especially from Dempster. Dempster led the Cubs in wins, era and K’s. I am not sure if that is a good thing or bad thing. Rich Harden will be the key to the staff in 2009. When healthy, he is one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. The problem is, Harden is rarely healthy. He has only made 30+ starts once in his 6 year career. Sean Marshall is an upgrade over Jason Marquis.

3. Boston Red Sox

Rankings – Depth (1), Ace (1), IP (4), ERA (4)

Rotation –Beckett, Lester, Matsuzaka, Penny, Wakefield

Analysis – Boston’s ranking was earned by having the most depth out of any starting rotation in baseball and by having the best big-game pitcher in the game today in Josh Beckett. When newly signed John Smoltz joins the club in June, the Red Sox rotation could go 6 deep. 7 depending on the development of Clay Buchholtz. The key to the Red Sox rotation will be the continued development of Jon Lester and the health of Brad Penny. If Penny can regain his 2006 & 2007 form (16 wins each season), the Red Sox will once again be in the hunt in the tough AL East

2. New York Yankees

Rankings – Depth (2), Ace (4), IP (1), ERA (2)

Rotation –Sabathia, Wang, Burnett, Pettitte, Chamberlain

Analysis –Out are Phil Hughes, Ian Kennedy and Sidney Ponson from the 2008 rotation and in are CC Sabathia, AJ Burnett and Joba Chamberlain for 2009. No team in baseball spent more money on improving their rotation during the offseason than the Yankees. The Yankees coughed up $243.5MM for Sabathia and Burnett in hopes of bringing a World Series title to the Bronx for the first time since 2000. Burnett is the key to the Yankees rotation. Other than his 2 free agent years (2005, 2008), Burnett has been nothing more than a mediocre pitcher. It will be interesting to see how Burnett handles NY considering he has pitched in no pressure places like Florida and Toronto in his career. In case Burnett does flame out or goes down with an injury, the Yankees do have depth with Phil Hughes waiting in the wings.

1. San Francisco Giants

Rankings – Depth (3), Ace (2), IP (2), ERA (1)

Rotation –Lincecum, Cain, R. Johnson, Zito, Sanchez

Analysis – The Giants go into 2009 with the majors best rotation. They have everything you can ask for in a rotation. A staff ace in 24 year old Tim Lincecum, 2 outstanding young pitchers in Matt Cain and Jonathon Sanchez and an all-time great in Randy Johnson who is motivated to get to the 300 win mark this year. Even Barry Zito who has been nothing short of a disaster so far with the Giants, did have a 6-5 record and held batters to a .232 average in the 2nd half last season. So there are signs of improvement from him. If the Giants could ever score some runs, then these pitchers’ records will reflect how good they really are. Take a look at this comparison:

Matt Cain, 2007 & 2008 – 15-30, 3.70 era

Chien-Ming Wang, 2006 & 2007 – 38-13, 3.67 era

Amazing what run support can do for a pitcher. Practically the same era and a difference of 23 wins. If you had to start a team with Cain or Wang, I am pretty sure the overwhelming majority, including myself would pick Cain.

So the Giants go into the 2009 season with baseball’s best starting rotation. Can they stay there? That remains to be seen. Like with all the categories in the “Baseball’s Best” series, we will check back in after the quarter mark in the season.