With the MLB play in game for the full season stretch and all the games on Monday, it's just about time to settle in for the other 161 games still to come. Of course, this also means that fantasy baseball is once again in full swing. My league's draft was last Monday night, and in a shallow league such as mine there are still plenty of top tier players left on the free agent board. That said, I think I drafted pretty well, albeit perhaps a bit too deeply.
I may re-think some of these picks once the season really heats up (toward the end of April), but so as it stands now, my team is in pretty good shape I think. I hope? Here's my lineup and some of the reasons I picked each player. They are listed in the order that they were drafted, too. Feel free to criticize.
1. David Ortiz (Bos) - UTIL
One of the best hitters in the game, and the dude ahead of me had already taken Pujols. I had the 4th pick, and ahead of Ortiz went Beltran, Pujols and Soriano. He doesn't get injured (often) and last season he scored 115 runs and drove in 137. Should finish with an OPS over 1.00 and a ton of RBI's and runs. Not bad. Last year I took Manny first overall and was sorely disappointed when he checked out for the season just as I was making a push for first in my league.
2. Joe Mauer (Min) - C
The dude won the batting title in the AL last year. That's no small feat. He's a young guy in great shape who hits for power at his position and gets on base a lot too. Top catcher in fantasy and a steal in the second round. Plus he's hitting alongside Morneau, who I wish I had gotten. I think he'll have a little recession in his BA, and he's definitely not going to earn batting champion status again but I'd be fairly surprised if he hits under .315.
3. Matt Holliday (Col) - LF
Dude can rake, and in Colorado he's ridiculous. 119 R and 114 RBI last season and a .326 average, and he's only getting better. He's got former slugger turned extra base hit machine Todd Helton to learn from, and that thin air up there should do him very, very well. Young guy with huge potential as long as he can have smart at bats. He's faceless in MVP, so it's odd to see him in real life.
4. Jimmy Rollins (Phi) - SS
Maybe fourth was a bit too high to have drafted Rollins, but I think he's primed to have a great year. With all the talk he's been doing about the Phils going to the series this year, I figure it's time to either put up or shut up. 36 SB's and 126 R last season ain't bad either. Hitting at the top of their lineup I bet his numbers go up a fair amount. Not a power hitter but he swings a good bat and won't have too many errors.
5. Rich Harden (Oak) - P
I panicked because I saw other people taking pitchers starting in the 5th (except Santana who went in the first). I had him at the top of my queue and time ran out on the clock before I could move him down and switch him out with someone else. Could be worse though, he could be injury prone... Here's hoping he has a stellar season like so many think he will. Based on facial hair alone Dan Haren wins hands down, but Harden is still a good pick if he stays healthy.
6. Mark Teahen (KC) - 3B
A bit of a stretch here considering he's on the Royals, but here's hoping. He had a .974 OPS during the second half of last season, so maybe he can come close to that at some point this year. Definitely should not have drafted him so high, but he was one of those picks that has a lot of if/then aspects to it. He's moving to the outfield but is still 3B eligible, meaning he won't have many errors (hopefully), which count in my league.
7. Matt Cain (SF) - P
He did me well for most of last season, so I picked him again out of loyalty. And, umm, he did well last season. Looking for a small WHIP and lots of K's from him. He was downright dominant on occasion last year, and with some more work hopefully he can keep that up. If his ERA stays under 3.70 and he strikes out 180+ I'll be happy. He's a young guy, too, only five days older than I am.
8. Chris Ray (Bal) - RP
Not sure why I drafted Ray while Papelbon was still on the board, but working with Leo Mazzone for another full season should do him well. Not that he did poorly last year, but he should be even better. Minuscule WHIP and an ERA under 2.20 would be awesome. I'm hoping for 40 SV's as well, but that may be a stretch considering the Orioles offense. Also, Chris Ray looks incredibly vacant in his picture. He probably is in real life, too.
9. Chris Burke (Hou) - 2B
This is one of those picks that as I was making it I thought "man, I can't believe I'm going to pick this guy." He's fast, and should hit in front of Lance Berkman and Carlos Lee, so if he can get on base he should score me some runs. His SB's aren't as high as I would like considering his speed, but it's okay. I bet he hits over .300 this season too, since he'll have a full year on the big club barring any injuries. Plus I hit really well with him in MVP, which of course means nothing but whatever.
10. Todd Helton (Col) - 1B
Not sure how he fell this far, but I picked him up since all signs point to a great year. He's "in better shape than he's ever been" (aren't they all?) and will hit alongside Holliday. I'm hoping the Sox pull off a trade for him at the deadline and he finished the season with, oh, 400 doubles off of the monster. If not it's okay, he should still do okay. He won't hit as many HR's anymore, but he's still a good hitter and will get on base often enough to make it worth a pick.
11. Torii Hunter (Min) - CF
Contract year for a player who was one of the best on my team last season. He had a career type year last season, but considering his contract situation, I think he'll step up in a big way again. I'm not saying he's going to have a '06 Soriano-like year by any means, but definitely at least on par with last year if not better. The only foreseeable problem is that since he plays all out all the time, he's an injury risk. Let's hope for the best though eh?
12. Josh Beckett (Bos) - P
A full season in Boston has done him well, I suspect. He'll get a bunch of K's and hopefully 15+ wins. If he can keep his WHIP and ERA reasonable down I'll be pleased. So long as he can settle down a bit and keep from giving up so many HR's, he has the talent to be a dominant #2 behind Schilling. I may have done better drafting Matsuzaka here but I think Beckett will do me a solid in '07, and Matsuzaka is as yet untested in MLB so I'm still a bit skeptical.
13. Gary Sheffield (Det) - RF
He's the de-facto DH this season now that Sean Casey is healthy, and he's playing pissed because of the Yankees situation. He won't have to field, just hit, and he does that well anyway. Hitting in their lineup should do him well, although Comerica Park isn't exactly a hitter's paradise. He'll net me a good OPS and probably 100+ RBI's. Plus he's not on the Yankees anymore, so I can draft him without feeling guilty.
14. Dave Bush (Mil) - P
Another one of those players that I took because he was on my team last year and did well. He improved mightily from '05 to '06, and got better throughout the season. I'm hoping for a big year from him. He's one of those control pitchers that just bangs the strike zone relentlessly, go he gets a lot of K's and his WHIP should be really low. I'm betting he gets over 15 wins and upstages Ben Sheets.
15. Erik Bedard (Bal) - P
Everything I've read in the past few months points to this guy having a monster year. Big on the K's and wins I would think, but his ERA is something I'm going to have to watch closely because when he gets hit he gets hit hard, especially with that fastball. Last year was an adjustment period for Leo Mazzone in the O's coaching cabinet, so '07 can't go anywhere but up for Orioles pitchers. At least I'm banking on it.
16. Kevin Youkilis (Bos) - 1B
Every time I needed a big week on my team last season, Youk came through in a big way. I like his steady hitting, and if Coco Crisp craps out he could hit at the top of the lineup. He did that very effectively last season, so here's hoping. In either case he's a solid pickup should Helton get injured or slump in a big way. Plus if Helton gets traded, someone's going to have to platoon at first on occasion. That of course would be Youkilis. I'm also hoping he plays some #B this season and regains that eligibility in my league.
17. Alex Rios (Tor) - LF
Again, another player that has consistently improved and will continue to do so as long as he gets regular playing time. He had some foot troubles last season, but on both sides of that he had a great OPS and stole a few bases as well. Plus he's hitting in a pretty decent lineup, so I'm expecting around 70-80 in both runs and RBI's.
18. Morgan Ensberg (Hou) - 3B
If Teahen goes bust, Ensberg is a decent backup. I'd expect a decent OPS from him, and 80 or so RBI's to make him worth keeping around. If not, his ass is gone. He seems like one of those hot or cold guys, so the trick will be trying to recognize when he's about to go on a tear and when he's going to be working the sunflower seeds in the dugout for a while. Not sure where he's hitting in their lineup, but I'm not sure it matters.
19. Dan Wheeler (Hou) - RP
He's the current setup man for the Astros, and he's quite good at it. I drafted him though because he's the understood closer if Lidge can't get it together this year. He'll get me some holds, and contribute a decent ERA and better than decent WHIP to the effort. It's a win-win situation because I don't have too much in the way of pitching at the moment. Only three relievers and not much else. Wheeler's versatility should serve me well in whatever role he ends up taking.
20. Chris Duffy (Pit) - CF
Drafted solely because his steal potential. ESPN the Magazine rated him with a huge upside so I figured it would be okay to use a late round pick and drop if necessary. He is hitting at the top of the Pirates lineup, so I'm hoping he scores runs in droves to accompany those steals. Plus with the way Torii Hunter plays the field there's a chance he could go down with injury so it's good to have someone waiting in the wings.
21. Mike Piazza (Oak) - C
A full season of not squatting down should do Piazza well. He's still a good hitter and should do well once he gets his AL batting legs. I'm going to sit him on the bench for a little bit and see how he does to start the season. If Frank Thomas's semi-huge resurgence last season is any indication Piazza could be a steal in the 21st round. Thomas was used to hitting in the AL, however, so we'll see. Also Belle and Sebastian wrote a song about Piazza. Sad bastard music for sure.
22. Cla Meredith (SD) - RP
He pitched really well last season, and along with Wheeler will get me the holds I'm looking for. He's not going to get any saves to speak of but that's fine.A good K/9 and low WHIP will make me pretty happy from him. If his ERA is a bit above 2.5 I'll be okay with it. It will be his second season in the majors though, so there is definitely the chance he could experience a sophomore slump. Something to watch out for.
23. David Dellucci (Cle) - LF/RF
Another player who I drafted for a single reason, which is that his OPS upside is a bit above 1.0. Definite bench player because he doesn't play regularly, but still a good guy to pocket away and keep an eye on. He could start seeing some regular time this season and if he does he could be pretty decent.
Holy crap, the new Gameday from MLB.com is freaking amazing. It's improved about 500% from previous years. It's closer to real time now, and you can change the views, looking in from the mound or out from the betters box. There is also a pitch by pitch breakdown and pitch history, both for the batter and the pitcher.
I'm definitely planning on watching games this year with this window pulled up. There's so much detail, and the best part is it's free. ESPN insider service definitely doesn't have this much in-depth info, but then again, ESPN doesn't have the access to all the ballpark resources that MLB does. You know, because it's their league and all.
Manny is making a valiant effort to appear as homeless as possible.
Also I'm not sure if you noticed but I have cornered the market on huge goatees in my league. Youkilis and Helton only took off their flannel shirts for the individual pictures. The ratio of facial hair to non facial hair on my team is pretty decent too. 12-11. That's a .522 average for those of you keeping track.
Basically what I'm saying is that if my team's facial hair were a batter, it would have the best average ever. I'm okay with that.
Enjoy the season y'all.