Fantasy Baseball Unplugged: ’08 Overview

Fantasy baseball is coming fast. My crew has our draft later this week actually. I’ve been doing a lot of reading, ranking, and thinking so I’m in the mindset. I figured I will give a rough overview, or just some thoughts on the 2008 player pool. The rankings never finish how they start but last year we had more breakouts and busts than usual. Lets try to make sense of last year by seeing where we stand today. First lets look at some of the guys you cant go wrong with.

5 toolers make up Top 5 Based off of standard 5 category scoring. And the rankings stress 5 category contributors. Realize that as much as Im stressing HR/SB and balance, HR are more important to your offense. HR’s are their own category but every one of them adds a Run and an RBI, a direct correlation. I wouldn’t recommend punting (ignoring) SB’s though. Just because they aren’t directly affecting any other categories. The SB guys are also usually the ones hitting at the top of a lineup and scoring more runs than they drive in. You want a blend of guys who can go deep and bat runs in, along with guys who steal and score. The nice thing about these next 5 guys is that they do it all.

1. A. Rodriguez – I think he should probably regress a little bit, but thats not a problem when your Runs and RBI added up equals 300. The 54 HR is just outrageous when you add in 24 steals. 10 years ago Rodriguez became one of only 4 hitters in history to join the 40/40 club (42HR and 46SB), and combining for 78 last year proves he still has it. A couple other clinchers for the 1 ranking are his durability, and the fact that his absolute floor is 280 with 35 HR, 100 RBI/R and speed numbers.

2. D. Wright – Hitting in the heart of the Mets lineup and has a skillset that transfers to perfect to fantasy success. Wright will fill up a stat sheet. .325 with 30 jacks and 220 RBI+R. The sneaky part of Wright’s game last year was his 34 steals though. That number is no joke and relieves the pressure to get speed in your lineup without dragging down your teams power numbers. For example, Howard/Crawford as your 1/2 picks would give you 50hr/50sb. Wright/Beltran gives you 63/57 with still an open roster spot for power rich and deep 1B. Lastly, Wright is 25 years old and only getting better.

3. H. Ramirez – I would say probably the strongest candidate besides Soriano to go 40/40. Atleast at some point in his career. Hanley is going to steal 40 or 50 every year and the power is developing at a rapid rate. Hanley rips the cover off the ball. Hes came close to 50 doubles in both of his first two years. 29HR/51SB with a slugging percentage higher than Miguel Cabrera. The doubles and the steals mean he basically lives on 2nd base so scoring a lot of runs is a regular affair. Put Hanley in Jimmy Rollins spot in the Phillies lineup and you might have an argument at number 1. Interesting to think that Vladdy always holds so much trade value and Hanley hit 2 more HR and stole 49 more bags.

4. A. Soriano – The second player on this list that is in the 40/40 club. Soriano’s value has dipped because he did struggle a little in Chicago. So he had an off year and was injured for 27 games but still finished 33/19. The 40/40 year was not a fluke. With the Yankees he went 39/41 and 38/35 in ’02 and ’03. Hes streaky anyway, but when Soriano got settled and healthy he went off in September to the tune of 14 HR and .320. Bottom line is Soriano’s 40/40 season that he is one year removed from is the type of year that will win you your league. 2008 should probably bring 35/30 from a shallow outfield and I’m cool with that. I will be targeting Soriano top 10 in all of my leagues.

5. Jimmy Rollins – He isn’t the player Hanley is, but Rollins is as strong of a 5 category contributor as anyone on the list. He will probably hit close to .300 again, he doesn’t miss games, and the Philly lineup is crazy. Rollins gets on base, swipes a bag while Victorino is up if he wants, then gets driven in by Utley or Howard. He scored an insane 139 runs last season but the 94 RBI is what I love. 94 RBI out of the leadoff spot is a weapon. Reyes had 57 last year and the other big names get around 80. Then back to the theme of this list really, Rollins hit 30 and stole 41. I know he doesn’t have the raw talent of Hanley or Reyes, but he does have their production and then some. The lineup and durability make Rollins a real strong pick for me.

Other things

-Position scarcity and depth is something you want to be aware of. This year OF is more thin than usual so don’t wait if you want to trot out 2 or 3 elite hitters. Holliday is a complete monster then Soriano, Sizemore, Beltran are going to go and the elite 5 toolers are pretty much gone. Crawford has always been overrated as a fantasy guy for me and never given you much RBI and pop but he will give you 50 bags and the power could develop. Next on your list is probably Vlad, who stole hit 39 HR and stole 41 bases in 2002, and he will hit about 25 HR and steal 1 base in 2008. Granderson, Berkman, Carlos Lee, Maggs, and Ichiro are the only big names you have left to fill 3 OF spots.. There are some good OF’ers being selected around picks 40 or 50, but the elite ones will be gone quick.

-Shortstop is also thin this year. The dropoff after the big 3 is enormous. If you miss out on Reyes/Rollins/Ramirez, your going to want to chill out until the 5th round or so when you can start looking at Tulowitzki and Jeter. If you still don’t have a shortstop after that, I would recommend looking at Tejada or seeing what Renteria can do at the bottom of the Tigers lineup.

-2B is not as shallow as years past. Utley is still number one obviously but the dropoff from him to Brandon Phillips and Upton is a lot less than the 3rd to 4th SS dropoff. Upton and Phillips are both 30/30 candidates, Figgins and Roberts can steal 50 bags, Cano can rake, Uggla has some pop, Kinsler showed a lot of promise, and Kendrick and Weeks are high ceiling guys going before pick 100.

-You won’t win your league with your top picks usually, you win it with guys you get in the middle rounds and end up as 2009 first rounders. Like selecting Prince Fielder, Braun, Phillips, Holliday, Upton, Granderson types last year. Or the Hanley Ramirez, Ryan Howard, and Jose Reyes’ of the year before. Identifying those players is the hard part, but you know what to look for. Invest in young players who are on the upswing of their career instead of selecting the former all stars in their mid 30’s. Young players develop a lot more often than old players have a resurgence. Also you can look for guys coming off a down year and take advantage of that. Just ask A-Rod owners from last year who drafted him in the 2nd half of the first round. I think Pujols, Howard, Ortiz, Teixeira, and maybe Soriano are guys this year that have the talent to be top 5 picks again. Below this post is Matty C’s top 10 rooks, good breakout candidates in there.

-Know your leagues rules inside and out. All those rankings you are studying probably need to be tweaked.

-Balance. If your first three hitters are all leadoff guys and score thousands of runs, start targeting 3-4-5 hitters with higher RBI’s. Don’t know whether to draft Markakis or Rios? Look at your earlier picks and see if more Runs or RBI will do a better job of balancing you out.

-Take guys you want. I would strongly recommend using your gut over your head. After all it is just fantasy and the preseason rankings will be flipped upside down by the end of the year. If all the experts like Reyes over Rollins but you look at the numbers and just dont see it, then take Rollins earlier.

-Go into your draft prepared. Remember that even though all you have been thinking about is who you are going to draft in the 1st round, your money is made in the middle or later rounds when other people are starting to fade. Its worth it to do your research ahead of time. Go into the draft with a list of late round guys you want to target.

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