Monday, March 24, 2008

Monday Fantasy Baseball Thoughts

As we wait for the 2008 MLB season to begin on the other side of the globe, here are some random thoughts for Monday.

- In my 12-team H2H keeper league, I ended up drafting Rick Ankiel in the 18th round. I needed some power and I was willing to sacrifice average to get it, so I was looking for guys who could conceivably hit 25 or more home runs. I ultimately chose Ankiel over Josh Fields, and after hearing the news that, barring a trade, Fields will most likely start the season in the minors after failing to unseat Joe Crede at third base, I'm happy with the choice I made.

Now ultimately I believe that Fields will have a better career than Ankiel, and Fields shouldn't be in the minors for too long, but I'm glad that I went with the player who had greater job security and little competition at his position. In keeper leagues, a younger player with upside is almost always a more attractive option than a proven veteran who's reached his ceiling, but sometimes you have to go with the guy with the longer track record.

Granted, Ankiel's track record is actually smaller than Fields, but Fields has to contend with a crowded outfield and an incumbent third baseman who hit 30 HR in 2006. Ankiel just has to hold off the not-so-threatening combination of Ryan Ludwick and Brian Barton.

I'm willing to gamble that a full season of Ankiel will give me better value than a partial season of Fields. Sometimes is hard not to get caught up in the hype of a touted prospect, especially in a keeper league, but if you want to contend this year, go with the guy that is assured of a full-time job.

Here are some players that were taken in the middle rounds of our league's draft but either have already been sent down to the minors or a rumored to be sent down:

Colby Rasmus (The Balls dropped him for Dave Roberts)

Jay Bruce

Joey Votto (hasn't been sent down, but hasn't beaten Scott Hatteberg for the starting job

Jarrod Saltalamacchia (thinks he'll be sent down)

Evan Longoria (most likely will be sent down to start the season)

These rookies all have value in keeper leagues, but the chances that they'll be a top 100 player either this year or next is small. There just aren't that many Ryan Braun's in the world. I'll go with guy who actually has a job.

- Kerry Wood was named the Cubs' closer today. This is good news for me as I drafted Wood in hopes that this would happen. Carlos Marmol is still the better pitcher, and he definitely has value due to his strikeout ability and his good command. Now all I need is for Wood to stay healthy and keep the job for the whole year. If he can stay healthy and pitch consistently on back to back outings, 30 saves should be within reach.

In that same article, it was noted that Felix Pie has won the starting centerfielder's job and will bat 8th. It'll be interesting to see what he can do with consistent playing time, something that he was not given last year. Pie could easily steal 25 bases in a full season if he can adapt to major league pitching. ESPN's Jerry Crasnick talks about what Pie has to work on to succeed.

- If you're looking for a deep sleeper with power, you should keep an eye on Florida's Jorge Cantu. Cantu appears to have won the Marlins' third baseman job with a .457 average in 46 spring training at bats. He's been driving the ball well as nearly 40% of his hits have gone for extra bases. Cantu hit 28 HR in Tampa Bay in 2005, and 20 HR aren't out of the question if he can get 550 at bats. What is in question is his ability to hit lefties; he's hit .243 against them in 341 AB's over the last three years. Cantu won't replace Miguel Cabrera for the Marlins, but a better third base option has not presented itself for them, so monitor how Cantu starts the season if you need a few home runs from a corner infield position.

- Injury News

Brewer's lefthander Chris Capuano is likely out for the year. Capuano will probably undergo a second Tommy John surgery as opposed to rehab. Capuano has no value this year, and little for the next, which is a shame because Capuano was a good pitcher in 2005 and 2006 who kept the ball down. He had trouble last year and was moved to the bullpen, but I had hoped he might rebound this year and fly under everyone's radar. Oh well.

Scott Rolen broke his right middle finger during a fielding drill on Sunday. We'll have a time table on how long he'll be out once he sees a specialist on Monday, but GM J.P. Ricciardi says "the early prognosis is it isn't going to be six weeks". Chris Neault at The Disabled List Informer has his own prognosis.

Curtis Granderson also had his finger broken this weekend when he was hit by a fastball on Saturday. Granderson will go on the 15-day disabled list, and he expects to be ready in another three weeks. This doesn't sound too serious, and he shouldn't have much trouble getting back into form once he's healthy.

John Smoltz will likely start the season on the DL with a sore shoulder. This sounds like a precautionary move, and hopefully won't be something that bothers him throughout the year.

Brad Lidge has been placed on the 15-day DL, retroactive to March 21st, according to the Delaware Online. It looks like he'll miss the first 5 games of the season. I have Lidge on my team as part of a shaky closer trio with Matt Capps and Kerry Wood, so I'm praying this isn't a recurring theme for the year.

- Trade Talks

According to the Denver Post, the Rockies are trying to trade Marcus Giles to the Dodgers. Jayson Nix appears to have the second baseman's job sealed up, and Giles will not accept a minor league assignment, so it looks like a trade will be the only way to make him happy. As a Dodger fan, I'd rather see Tony Abreu get playing time at second while Jeff Kent's hamstring heals, but Abreu might have to replace Nomar Garciaparra and Andy Laroche at third. I don't think Giles will have much value wherever he's traded, so let's move on.

The Nationals are trying to trade Felipe Lopez. Lopez was behind Ronnie Belliard and Christian Guzman on Washington's depth chart, limiting any fantasy value he might have had. If he lands in the right place, Lopez could be a cheap source of steals. He's stolen 68 bases over the last two seasons, and he could have 25 SB this year if he gets traded to a team that likes to run. Watch to see how this plays out.

- What Other Blogs Are Saying

Keith Law points out that Eric Gagne isn't trusting his changeup and he's relying too much on his fastball.

Eric Hz at Fake Teams has some notes on Sunday's spring training performances, including Chad Billingsley and B.J. Upton.

ESPN has posted their 2008 sleepers for both mixed and NL/AL only leagues. Lot of intriguing names on this list, and a lot of guys who've already been on people's radars all spring (I'm looking at you Jeremy Hermida). Happily for me, both Austin Kearns and Rick Ankiel are on the list, reaffirming my own good feelings about them.

All right, less than 24 hours until the season starts. I can't wait.

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