Archive for July, 2009

The Scoop

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Over his last four starts, Chad Billingsley has a 9.45 ERA with a 1.989 WHIP. He threw 200.2 innings last season and doesn’t rank among the top-10 in Baseball Prospectus’ pitcher abuse points in 2009, so it’s not like he should be wearing down. It’s probably just a blip on the radar and nothing to worry about, but improved control would be nice, as his 4.02 BB/9 mark is worse than last season. Teammate Clayton Kershaw’s 4.85 BB/9 mark actually ranks last in the league, but both pitchers remain successful because they are just so tough to hit. In fact, Kershaw’s .200 BAA is the second lowest in major league baseball. The fact Kershaw has a 2.76 ERA and 1.23 WHIP despite the worst walk rate in the game reveals huge upside moving forward. Kershaw should win a Cy Young someday and is easily one of the five most valuable pitching commodities in a keeper league.

Aramis Ramirez has blasted four homers with 10 RBI over his past six games, and he’s hitting .324/.400/.606 with an 8:8 K:BB ratio since coming off the disabled list. What happened to his supposed decrease in power with a still less than 100 percent shoulder that will likely require surgery after the season? Ramirez was reportedly unable to extend his arms, and even he admitted a drop in power was in store. Guess he was wrong.

Sticking with the Cubs, Alfonso Soriano is another interesting case. Normally I avoid using terms such as ”streaky,” but Soriano actually seems to legitimately qualify. He’s always been that way, at least to an extent, but he’s taken hot/cold a step further this season. He hit seven homers (with three steals) over the first 19 games of the year, and despite five home runs over a nine-game stretch in the middle of May, Soriano proceeded to bat  .192 over 234 at-bats after his hot start. Soriano has since blasted five homers with 15 RBI over his past 12 games, raising his OPS more than 55 points during that span. He’s really struggled with off-speed stuff this season, but it looks like he’s finally starting to turn it around.

It was nice to see Johan Santana record eight strikeouts over seven shutout innings Thursday, as his K rate had plummeted of late. In fact, since May ended, his K/9 mark was a paltry 4.78. Thursday marked the first time Santana had fanned more than five batters in a game in 11 starts. Fun fact: Before Thursday’s outing, Santana had recorded the second most strikeouts with a changeup this season (h/t Buster Olney) with 57. Tim Lincecum leads with a whopping 97. That’s 40 more than any other pitcher in baseball with what is considered The Freak’s third best pitch!

Glad to see Hong-Chih Kuo back pitching. His arm could give with any pitch, but it’s not a stretch to call him one of the best relievers in baseball when healthy. One of my favorite stats last season was Kuo versus lefties: 44:2 K:BB ratio over 26.0 innings.

Luke Hochevar was hit hard Thursday, allowing seven runs over six innings against the Orioles. However, with a 31:2 K:BB ratio over his last four starts, spanning 25.1 innings, the former No. 1 overall pick needs to be taken seriously. With a new emphasis on his slider, any pitcher capable of recording 22 strikeouts with zero walks over back-to-back starts belongs firmly on the radar. The Royals clearly erred taking Hochevar ahead of Evan Longoria, Clayton Kershaw and Tim Lincecum, but the team hardly whiffed like the Rockies, who selected Greg Reynolds with the second pick.

Since returning from the disabled list, Josh Hamilton has a .597 OPS with a 22:4 K:BB ratio over 71 at-bats. He doesn’t have a multi-hit game over his past 10 contests, but more disturbing is his .268 slugging percentage. I traded for him in one league, and there’s no reason to give up on his immense upside, but clearly Hamilton is far from 100 percent. He claims he’s “healthy enough to play,” which basically means he’s hurting. I underestimated the hernia problem.

Taking a momentary break away from baseball, while watching NFL Live on ESPN the other day, this quote absolutely killed me: “Losing (Shawne) Merriman hurt them (San Diego) last year, especially defensively.” Ladies and gentlemen, Herm Edwards!

This is old news by now, but I still can’t believe what Omar Minaya did to Adam Rubin. Truly despicable. “The Bride” from “Kill Bill” thinks that was too vengeful. I can’t imagine Minaya having a job entering 2010.

Even with the return of a hot Howie Kendrick, Maicer Izturis has been a sneaky middle infield play for some time now. He’s followed up a .983 OPS in June by hitting .316 with two homers and two steals over 11 games in July. Despite hitting worse against southpaws during every season in his career, Izturis has raked against lefties in 2009, posting a 1.063 OPS compared to just .722 against right-handers. The small sample size reveals a fluke, but it’s at least something to note for those in deeper daily leagues.

Since a terrible April, Ubaldo Jimenez has recorded a sparkling 1.16 WHIP over 116.2 innings, despite calling Coors Field home. His control still needs plenty of work even though it’s improving, but Jimenez’s 1.72 G/F rate is fantastic. It looks like he could someday become the first Rockies’ starter to ever finish a season with an ERA below 3.50 (that is if Jason Marquis doesn’t do so this year).

With three homers and 13 RBI over his last five games, Jhonny Peralta’s bat is finally coming alive. In fact, he’s hit more long balls (five) over the previous 20 games than he had over the season’s first 72 games (four homers). Peralta’s .250/.320/.317 (one HR) line at home seems like a fluke, considering Progressive Field typically plays neutral. Peralta will never be an above average player in real baseball, but he can be plenty helpful in fantasy leagues at the shortstop position over the rest of the year.

Jarrod Washburn has easily been one of the biggest surprises in 2009, as he sports a 2.64 ERA and an elite 1.07 WHIP. His current .249 BABIP is the lowest in all of baseball, so some regression is inevitable. However, as a flyball pitcher, his career BABIP is .282, and Seattle’s terrific outfield defense is a legitimate reason for Washburn’s success this year. So while the BABIP is due to increase, it won’t necessarily be drastic. Which brings up the trade rumors, as a move to another AL team (the Yankees) would almost certainly be disastrous to his fantasy value. A move to the National League sounds great, but the downgrade in OF defense could negate that. Either way, Washburn is pitching better now than at any point since 2002, and the main reason to try to sell him would be the worry of getting shipped to a different AL team.

Rafael Furcal has posted a .347/.404/.510 line in July, so maybe he’s actually going to be an asset over the rest of the season. He only has one steal since the All-Star break, and his success rate (6-for-10) has been a massive disappointment this year. Even if his batting average bounces back, with modest power, Furcal can only be so valuable in fantasy formats if he’s not running like he used to. After stealing 83 bases over the 2005 and 2006 seasons, Furcal has recorded just 39 stolen bases over his last 1,222 plate appearances.

Brian Sabean Strikes Again

Thursday, July 30th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

When I first heard of my Giants trading Tim Alderson for Freddy Sanchez, my blood immediately started to boil. I let the expletives fly. I then decided to give up on the team until Brian Sabean is gone. I’ve since tried to talk myself into it, and while I’ll acknowledge the team is better today than they were before the deal, the more I think about it, this trade was indefensible and terrible.

The Giants’ second baseman have accumulated a .603 OPS this season, which ranks 27th in the league (and close to 29th), so that position clearly required addressing. However, what the team needed more was a batter who hits home runs and gets on base, something Sanchez does neither of. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a nice player with a 6.3 UZR/150 and a solid .296/.334/.442 line. But he’s also not cheap, and if he reaches 600 plate appearances this season, won’t be cheap in 2010 either. In fact, because of his contract, the Pirates were actively trying to get rid of him. Sanchez’s strikeouts are way up this year, and his .343 BABIP suggests a BA decline is in store, which is a problem for someone who rarely walks. It’s never a good sign when the general manager defends a trade by talking about batting average, team chemistry and being a “professional hitter.” I’m sick to my stomach.

Alderson’s numbers have really declined since his move to Double-A, and I can appreciate a good TINSTAAPP philosophy. However, he is just 20 years old, making him extremely young for that league, and the big decrease in strikeouts, while worrisome, can be attributed to him working on developing a changeup and also the organization instructing him to “just getting ground balls and staying in the game longer.” That’s right. The Giants actively teach their minor league pitchers to avoid strikeouts. Alderson may never be an ace with his lack of fastball velocity, but his curveball and command are already major league quality.

The trade itself was maddening, but what really kills me was the context behind it. The Brewers just recently traded for a similar (and much cheaper) player in Felipe Lopez and gave up FAR less. In fact, there’s an argument Alderson is a better pitching prospect than any arm included in the Cliff Lee deal. The Giants are delusional if they think they are a better team than the Cardinals or Cubs, and the outlook should have always been long-term, despite the surprising play of 2009. Moreover, Sanchez is currently INJURED. With a sore shoulder and banged up knee, I doubt it’s a coincidence he’s batting .128 (with a 13:1 K:BB ratio) since the All-Star break. His knee is still so sore, there’s a chance he won’t make his SF debut until next week. I’d bet even money Sabean would finish dead last if he played in my home fantasy league – he’s the master of buying-high.

Wednesday’s Training Camp Notes

Wednesday, July 29th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

The Cardinals players received their NFC Championship rings Tuesday night – Arizona has the privilege of once again playing in the NFL’s worst division, and it’s not even close. However, with the terrific playoff run fresh in our minds, don’t forget this team entered Week 17 at 8-7 last year and outscored its opponents by just one point during the regular season. To put that into perspective, there were six teams who didn’t even reach the postseason that outscored their opponents by an average of 53.7 points. Kurt Warner is a huge injury risk, the defense is likely to remain one of the worst in football, and it’s extremely difficult to rebound after such an ultimately disappointing deep run in the playoffs during the following year. Expect the 49ers or Seahawks to win the West this year.

Beanie Wells remained unsigned on Wednesday, although Arizona general manager Rod Graves reported significant progress in negotiations – It’s not all pessimism in the desert, as their isn’t a player being more undervalued in all of fantasy football this year than Wells. I have far more to write about him in the future, but the short version is that the Cardinals are a much better run-blocking unit than most realize, coach Ken Whisenhunt is a ground-attack guy at heart, the NFC West is soft defensively, and while Wells is somewhat shaky when it comes to durability, the fact remains he only missed three games throughout his collegiate career, and he’s got a ton of talent. Anyone who thinks Tim Hightower is a threat would probably ask this guy to babysit their kids.

While Brett Favre has confirmed he’s decided to stay retired, he told several sources he’ll continue to work out and won’t entirely rule out a comeback – I’ve officially gone from tired (like everyone else) of Brett Favre news to oddly entertained, like rubbernecking when driving by a car accident. I’m definitely rooting for him to come back this season, as it will surely add to the entertainment value. I can’t see the Vikings finishing better than third in the NFC North either way.

Michael Huff is in danger of being cut by the Raiders – Huff was drafted ahead of Jay Cutler, in case you were wondering.

During an interview with Peter King on the Michael Kay Show Wednesday on ESPN 1050, Kay’s co-host Don La Greca asked who King thought was a better quarterback, Jason Campbell or Tony Romo? – I don’t bring this up based solely on this one occasion, as I have consistently heard Romo bashed in the media this offseason. But in what universe are these two quarterbacks even mentioned in the same paragraph, yet alone sentence? After all, this is comparing a below average league starting QB versus one of the 15 best players in the NFL. By all means, avoid Romo in fantasy football this year because he lost Terrell Owens, who caught a hideous 49 percent of his targets and got 7.52 YPA last season – how ever will Romo be able to replace that kind of production? Romo is a star, and the Cowboys are a legitimate threat to win the NFC in 2009.

Training Camp Notes

Monday, July 27th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

A look around the league with recent news from training camps:

Manhattan District Attorney Robert Morgenthau wants Plaxico Burress to serve time in prison for gun charges – At this point, Burress is pretty much undraftable in every format, as it looks increasingly unlikely he’ll play a single down in 2009.

Norv Turner does not see any physical limitations at all from Tomlinson’s recent injuries and expects him to be among the top three or four rushers in the league this year – Coach speak. Draft Tomlinson at your own peril this year. He could still be productive even fully in decline phase with that offense and the likelihood of him still getting the majority of carries (despite Darren Sproles being the superior option), so he’s not someone to avoid at all costs. But Tomlinson will be on zero of my fantasy teams in 2009.

Brandon Marshall reports to Broncos training camp – Marshall remains unhappy in Denver, but he reported to avoid the $15,000 daily fine. Remember, he’s at risk of being suspended yet again if the outcome of his August 13 trial goes against him. Considering the huge drop in talent at the Broncos’ quarterback position, Marshall has been a bit overvalued so far in fantasy leagues.

Trent Edwards feels he’s in much better shape entering the 2009 season, thanks to the same workout program developed by a Navy SEAL that Drew Brees swears by – Over his first eight games last year, Edwards got 7.8 YPA, which is superstar territory. The fact that was accompanied by just six touchdown passes was a fluke, as that YPA suggests he should have had more than double that TD total. It remains to be seen just how much the severe concussion he suffered in Week 5 affected him over the rest of the season, as he had a couple of nice games right afterward, so the injury can’t totally explain the poor second half to his season (6.4 YPA, 5:5 TD:INT ratio). Edwards’ three rushing scores were nice, and it’s reasonable to expect further growth during his third year in the league. But it’s Terrell Owens who truly makes Edwards interesting this year, as long as the team uses him correctly (Owens underneath, Lee Evans vertically). Other than Kyle Orton, there isn’t a better late round QB target.

Michael Vick conditionally reinstated by NFL – He’ll obviously be a PR nightmare, but it would still surprise if some team doesn’t gamble and sign Vick. Most teams have gone out of their way to state their lack of interest, including the 49ers, who actually make a lot of sense. But all it will take is one. Of course, it remains to be seen how prison affected Vick physically, but here’s a compelling argument Vick was actually underrated during his playing days. Of course, overrated/underrated depends on if you follow the NFL closely or if you just watch ESPN. Still, I’m willing to reevaluate my previous stance.

The 49ers and Michael Crabtree are currently far apart in contract negotiations, and it’s almost certain he won’t report to camp with the rest of the 49ers’ rookies Tuesday – Crabtree’s foot injury may still be an issue, and he wants to be paid above his draft slot while seeking top-3 money. Still, the 49ers should hardly regret taking him at this point, unlike the Raiders with Darrius Heyward-Bey, who looks like one of the more guaranteed busts in recent memory. However, with Crabtree a holdout after not participating in OTAs, his 2009 fantasy stock has taken a hit. The upside is there long-term, but Josh Morgan could be the most productive 49ers’ receiver in 2009.

The Scoop

Thursday, July 23rd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Over his last nine games, Yunel Escobar is hitting .467 with four home runs, 14 RBI and eight runs scored. While he’s never going to be a big power/speed guy, he’s already eclipsed last year’s HR total in 203 fewer at-bats. Although Escobar has frustrated Braves’ management at times, leading to rumors of a trade, there’s no questioning how valuable he’s been in the batter’s box. In fact, his .857 OPS ranks third best in all of baseball among shortstops, and while his ridiculous .442/.457/.767 line with RISP is certain to regress, Escobar has established himself as a top-10 fantasy shortstop.

Garrett Jones has been a terrific surprise since joining the Pirates, leading MLB with nine homers during July. Incredibly, every single one has been a solo shot, leaving him with just 11 RBI despite an .821 slugging percentage over 67 at-bats. Jones is 28 years old and posted a modest .821 OPS in Triple-A last year (although he did lead the International League in total bases with 255) and recorded an .850 OPS in the minors before getting recalled this season, so he’s hardly a legit prospect. Still, despite being 6-4, 245 lbs, he had 14 steals over 72 games in the minors this year, so his three swipes for Pittsburgh aren’t a total fluke. Jones’ huge month looks especially impressive because he’s had so much success against lefties (four homers, 1.173 OPS), but he’s definitely been playing well over his head.

Over his past 17.2 innings, Phil Hughes has allowed zero runs with a remarkable 22:3 K:BB ratio. Clearly, he’s taken well moving to the pen. His long-term role remains to be seen, but he definitely makes since as a setup guy for this current Yankees team, and it’s going to be awful tough scoring late-inning runs against New York in the postseason.

Miguel Montero has been unconscious of late, hitting .404 over his last 13 games, including five long balls and 11 RBI over his past eight contests. He’s improved his work behind the plate quite a bit as well, so while he’s bound to lose playing time once Chris Snyder returns, he could be looking at the better side of a platoon as the left-handed hitter. Montero’s .759 career OPS suggests this breakout isn’t a total fluke, and he’s been consistently batting fifth in the lineup and calls the second best hitter’s park in baseball home, so he’s not a bad option at a shallow position, at least in deeper leagues.

During two games against the A’s (one on Monday and the other on Wednesday) this week, the Twins allowed a whopping 30 runs and 40 hits. Amazingly, the staff recorded just one strikeout over that span – coming on Oakland’s final batter of the last game. The A’s currently (even after the outburst) rank last in the American League in batting average (.250), home runs (78) and slugging percentage (.379).

Jair Jurrjens has an impressive 2.67 ERA and 1.20 WHIP this season, but with an accompanying 1.87 K:BB ratio, it seems a huge regression should be in store. However, further investigation reveals he has only been truly lucky in April (16:14 K:BB ratio with a 1.72 ERA), so while his xFIP (4.47) reveals a major sell-high candidate, it’s worth noting just how much he’s improved his pitching since the lucky first month of the year. Jurrjens’ K rate has improved to 7.2/9 over his last 80 innings, and his impressive 2.70 ERA over his previous nine starts looks even better when you consider his schedule has featured the Red Sox twice along with the Phillies and another start in Coors Field. Of course, his 6.1% HR/F rate and .264 BABIP suggest him keeping a sub-3.00 ERA very unlikely, but Jurrjens’ development has been encouraging. And to think, the Braves traded a much more expensive Edgar Renteria for him (and also got back Gorkys Hernandez).

Somewhat quietly, Jason Kubel has been one of baseball’s best hitters against right-handers this season, as he’s posted a 1.057 OPS with a remarkable 16 homers over 214 at-bats. To put that in perspective, Carlos Pena, who is currently tied for the AL lead in homers this season, has hit a HR once every 13.9 at-bats this year. Kubel has hit a HR once every 13.4 at-bats against righties. If you prorated his numbers against right-handers over a 600 AB season, you’d get this: .347, 45 homers, 126 RBI and 104 runs scored. Of course, Kubel does have to face southpaws, making this little exercise somewhat pointless, but it illustrates just how productive he’s been when facing right-handed pitching.

The LeBron Dunk

Wednesday, July 22nd, 2009

Video footage has finally emerged from the infamous facial, and while the quality of this one is much better than TMZ’s version, the dunk itself is hardly worth the hype. LeBron has no one to blame but himself for making this a much bigger deal than it was, as there’s no way the hype would have reached this level had he not gotten Nike to take the footage.

The Scoop

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Over his last 10 starts, Felix Hernandez has a 1.30 ERA and a 0.947 WHIP with 73 strikeouts over 76 innings. The schedule hasn’t been particularly tough, but his 1.42 G/F ratio is also fantastic. After Tim Lincecum, Dan Haren and Roy Halladay, Hernandez enters the mix as next best fantasy starter. And he should be a top-five option for years to come.

With their recent moves, I would question whether the Padres are making decisions solely based on positioning themselves to draft Bryce Harper, but San Diego has a lot of work to do to catch up to the Nationals. Besides, how awesome of a foundation would a Strasburg/Harper combo be?

Tommy Hanson was absolutely filthy Monday, striking out 11 over seven innings. His arm was fresh after having not pitched since July 9, and it showed with a notable increase in fastball velocity. But it was the nasty slider that was particularly impressive. I still expect growing pains over the rest of the year, but Hanson is going to be a legitimate ace if he can stay healthy.

Since returning from the disabled list, Edwin Encarnacion has posted a 1.089 OPS. Over the past five games, he’s walked six times and struck out just once. He remains a big disappoint over his young career, but a nice second half could be in store.

Pretty funny Derek Jeter story.

At age 42, John Smoltz’s best days are obviously behind him, but don’t go dropping the hurler after getting hit hard in Texas. His ERA (6.31) and WHIP (1.44) are ugly, but that’s accompanied by a terrific 22:4 K:BB ratio over 25.1 innings. An ERA below 4.0 will be tough while pitching in the AL East, but he should rack up wins with Boston’s offense supporting him, and Smoltz’s fastball (91.6 mph) still has plenty of life and isn’t that far off what it’s been over the past few years in Atlanta. His slider’s velocity (84.9 mph) has dropped a bit more significantly, but the peripherals suggest he’ll be plenty effective from here on out. Remember, Smoltz hadn’t pitched in a big league game since June 2 of 2008, so some rust was inevitable.

Jason Schmidt, meanwhile, did not impress during his first start in two years Monday. The stuff is simply no longer there, and his once devastating changeup is worthless with such a decrease in fastball velocity. He was once my favorite player, so I’ll be rooting for him, but no one should be optimistic.

After holding a roster spot for Clay Buchholz in two leagues all year long up until one day before it was announced he will get the start after the break, it was pretty frustrating to see him scooped up before the announcement. Well, it’s now beyond frustrating not having the young talent with Tim Wakefield DL-bound. Buchholz could be a major difference maker, although he probably should be benched for his upcoming start in Texas.

I recently pulled off a pretty big blockbuster in NL LABR, trading Yovani Gallardo, Randy Johnson, Chris Young (SD), Gerardo Parra and Chris Duncan for Derrek Lee, Nate McLouth, Luke Gregerson and Todd Coffey. Maybe not a true blockbuster, but in a 13-team NL-only league, it qualifies as one. Obviously team context matters, but in a vacuum, which side do you guys like better?

What a crazy game between the A’s and Twins on Monday, when Oakland erased a 10-run deficit to win 14-13. Too bad a game destined for extra innings was ruined by a horrendous call at the plate to end it, but how about the Twins’ pitching staff allowing 22 hits while recording zero strikeouts? That’s impressive regardless, but it becomes even more noteworthy against the worst hitting team in the American League.

I’ll definitely check out this TV show about fantasy football, especially since it comes from the executive producer/director of “Curb Your Enthusiasm” and co-writer of “Bruno,” which by the way, is absolutely freaking hilarious. I’m pretty sure my wife thinks there’s something wrong with me for liking it so much, but I’m also pretty sure she was laughing like crazy every time I looked at her in the theatre – a theatre that saw approximately 12 of the 30 people in it leave in the middle of the movie.

Felipe Lopez isn’t some All-Star, but he was sporting a .364 OBP for Arizona while playing solid defense (2.2 UZR), so why did the then wild card leading Giants allow Milwaukee to get him for a pupu platter? San Francisco’s production at second base this season (.609 OPS) ranks 28th in baseball. It’s the team’s most glaring weakness, by far, and it’s not like Lopez is locked into some bad contract, as he’s free to leave at the end of the year. Brian Sabean asleep at the wheel yet again.

The Scoop

Friday, July 17th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Let me be clear, I don’t think much of Reggie Bush as an NFL player, as he’s been nothing but a disappointment since getting drafted out of USC. A 3.7 YPC mark over 418 career carries is ugly, and for such an explosive college player, it’s truly surprising he has just one rush for 40-plus yards over three seasons. Those numbers look even worse when you consider Bush has compiled them while playing for an offense that has ranked No. 1, No. 4 and No. 1 during his NFL tenure. That said, he seems to be entering 2009 as a somewhat undervalued fantasy commodity. Bush actually totaled 600 yards with five touchdowns over the first six games last year before going down with a knee injury in Week 7 that essentially ruined his season – that’s a 1,600-yard and 13-touchdown pace over a full season. Of course, he’s missed 10 games over the past two years, so durability is a major issue. Still, that’s big upside for someone typically going in the fourth round (42.06 ADP). Pierre Thomas will no doubt be more in the mix, since he’s by far the superior runner, but Bush was also on pace for a whopping 109 receptions, so he’s a PPR monster who is going to be a major part of what was the league’s No. 1 passing attack in 2008. Bush has quietly gone from overrated to underrated, at least in fantasy circles.

Most would consider there to be a big three with the quarterback position this year – Drew Brees, Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. While I won’t argue that, I would contend Aaron Rodgers makes it a big four. Because of his weapons on offense and ability to run the ball (207 rushing yards with four scores last season), I actually think he has more upside than Manning, but because Rodgers is a much bigger health risk, he remains outside the big three for now. Still, this is a QB who got 7.5 YPA with a 63.6 completion percentage and 32 touchdowns in a season he entered having never started a game in the league. Over his final four games, Rodgers got a staggering 8.6 YPA while tossing eight touchdowns. Donald Driver may be aging, but Greg Jennings has established himself as a star, Jordy Nelson impressed as a rookie, and James Jones is an overlooked talent who will finally be healthy after a knee injury limited him throughout 2008, so the Packers are loaded at wide receiver. Rodgers could blow up.

I’m a huge Clinton Portis fan, drafting him No. 1 overall in my home league during his second year in the league when he was typically going 5-10 spots lower. He rewarded me with an epic playoff performance, going off for 254 yards and five touchdowns during a Week 14 game against the Chiefs, so he will always have a special place in my heart. Portis is a fantastic blocker and consistently willing to play through pain, but with an ADP of 16.20, there’s no chance he’ll end up on any of my teams in 2009. At age 27, Portis is hardly old, even for a position for the young. However, since he was worked so hard early on, his career mileage (2,052 carries) is frightening. He averaged just 2.9 YPC over the last five games last year, failing to record a single run of more than 15 yards over that span. And while that doesn’t necessarily suggest the end is here – after all, an offseason of rest could lead to some rejuvenation – Portis’ inactivity in the passing game has become a concern (he only broke 20 yards receiving in one game in 2008). Moreover, his 667 carries over the past two seasons easily lead the league. In fact, it’s 60 more than the second most (LaDainian Tomlinson). He has four 325-plus carry campaigns over the past five years, making him a significant injury risk. Since Portis also plays in an extremely tough division, let someone else take him.

Larry Fitzgerald is the best all-around wide receiver in the NFL today, and what he did in last year’s postseason was special (30 catches, 546 yards, seven touchdowns). However, I give Calvin Johnson the slight edge when it comes to my No. 1 fantasy receiver entering 2009. For one, Fitzgerald’s numbers drop when Anquan Boldin plays alongside him (Fitz scored six touchdowns during 12 games with Boldin in the lineup last regular season and six touchdowns in four games without him). Of course, Boldin could get traded (unlikely) or get hurt again (more likely), but it’s still something to consider. Moreover, last season marked just the second time since 2001 that Kurt Warner played in more than 10 games, which was also the last time he played in all 16 contests (which he’s done only three times during his 11-year career). Matt Leinart, who I actually like as a deep sleeper, has supposedly impressed during the offseason, so it’s not like Fitzgerald’s numbers would plummet when the inevitable Warner injury occurs, but it’s yet another note of just how perfectly things went for the Cardinals (and Fitz) in 2008. As for Johnson, it really shouldn’t be underestimated just how impressive he was last season for a sophomore (8.81 YPA despite a 52% reception percentage thanks to terrible quarterbacks). His 1,331 receiving yards were fifth most in the NFL, and Johnson matched Fitzgerald’s league-leading 12 touchdowns despite just 12 red-zone targets and two goal-line looks (Fitzgerald had 40 and 10, respectively). Sure, Detroit figures to once again have poor quarterback play, but if Johnson can put up those numbers with Dan Orlovksy taking the majority of the Lions’ snaps last year, the situation can’t get any worse. And while he’s surely to make mistakes, Matthew Stafford’s strong arm is likely to be a decent upgrade. Because running back is such a volatile position, I’d consider Johnson with the first pick in a dynasty league.

I don’t like writing off 26-year-old running backs coming off a bad year just one season removed from scoring 15 touchdowns, but Joseph Addai won’t be on any of my teams in 2009. After all, this is a back who has averaged a paltry 3.98 YPC over the past two seasons despite playing for a potent Indy offense. He’s a solid receiver but also extremely fragile, effectively missing six games last year while banged up in numerous others. Meanwhile, a team that clearly needed help on the defensive side didn’t draft a running back in the first round not to play him. I understand veterans often get treated with unnecessary seniority in the NFL, so I fully expect Addai to retain the starting job, at least initially. Whether it is an injury or ineffectiveness, Donald Brown is going to get an opportunity, and his ceiling is much higher than the mediocre Addai. Brown is coming off an impressive junior year at Connecticut, leading the nation with 2,083 yards. His 4.51 40 at the Combine was faster than Knowshon Moreno, Chris Wells and Shonn Greene, so he’s much more explosive than Addai. And as for the goal line, Addai has just a 32% conversion rate there throughout his career, so that role is up for grabs as well. Addai may be the safer pick, but he has rushed for 80 yards just one time over his last 21 games, and his affinity for the trainer’s room can’t be underestimated. Without even factoring in how much cheaper he’ll typically come (44.74 vs. 84.96 ADP), I’d draft Brown over Addai without thinking twice.

No one is a bigger Jay Cutler fan than me, and I plan on talking about the Bears’ situation more in the future, but one aspect of the trade that has been driving me crazy is the running game. While I consider Matt Forte the No. 3 player on the board in fantasy drafts, I cringe every time I hear about how the one area Cutler upgraded in offense with the trade to Chicago is in the running game. While I do like Forte and expect him to perform even better in 2009 thanks to the huge upgrade at QB, that statement is blatantly false. The Bears averaged 3.9 YPC last season, ranking 27th in the NFL, whereas the Broncos averaged 4.8 YPC, ranking second in the league. I guess it just seems like Chicago was better because it was largely one player accumulating the stats, which is obviously a good thing in fantasy leagues but totally meaningless in real football.

If you want a deep sleeper, look no further than Josh Morgan. His overall numbers may not jump off the page last year (319 receiving yards, three scores), but a huge preseason was ruined by a virus that was originally held quiet yet later revealed a loss of 15 pounds – something that was clearly serious. Later a groin injury held him back, but when on the field, Morgan did nothing but impress, averaging an elite 16.0 yards-per-catch. He’s since dominated during OTAs and looks like a future star. Of course, the 49ers are likely to be a run-first team and drafted Michael Crabtree and re-signed Isaac Bruce, but make no mistake the two best players will start (Crabtree and Morgan), and the one with more experience may be more productive in 2009, although no doubt Crabtree has a higher long-term ceiling. Alex Smith actually opened eyes during OTAs, and he’s finally got a healthy shoulder (and was dealing with his best friend committing suicide last year, which wasn’t reported), so stranger things have happened than a QB finally developing after a few years of disappointing. There are worse late round fliers than Morgan.

Larry Johnson is coming off his second straight disappointing season after an NFL-high 429-carry campaign in 2006. While still accruing a modest 1,234 career carries and at the age of 29, it remains to be seen how that record-setting season will take its toll long-term. Still, Johnson averaged 4.5 YPC last year, and his 17 goal-line carries tied for fourth-most in the league despite playing in just 12 games, and all four of the DNPs were due to disciplinary reasons, not injury. New head coach Todd Haley likes to throw near the goal line, but his offensive system, along with new QB Matt Cassel, should be upgrades, and with Tony Gonzalez jettisoned, Johnson could see plenty of scoring opportunities. Of course, he’ll need to get back in good graces with the organization, but with only Jamaal Charles (who has impressed when healthy) as an alternative, he should remain in Kansas City. Maybe most importantly, with matchups against the Bills, Browns and Bengals during Weeks 14-16, Johnson could be a huge difference maker in the fantasy playoffs.

Catcher Rankings – Update

Wednesday, July 15th, 2009

1. Joe Mauer
2. Pablo Sandoval
3. Victor Martinez
4. Brian McCann

5. Jorge Posada
6. Bengie Molina
7. Matt Wieters
8. Mike Napoli
9. Chris Iannetta
10. Russell Martin
11. Ryan Doumit

12. Geovany Soto
13. A.J. Pierzynski
14. Jason Varitek
15. Kurt Suzuki

Second Base Rankings – Update

Tuesday, July 14th, 2009

1. Chase Utley
2. Ian Kinsler

3. Dustin Pedroia
4. Brian Roberts
5. Brandon Phillips
6. Aaron Hill
7. Robinson Cano

8. Dan Uggla
9. Jose Lopez
10. Clint Barmes
11. Ian Stewart

12. Freddy Sanchez
13. Felipe Lopez
14. Orlando Hudson
15. Howie Kendrick
16. Placido Polanco

17. Adam Kennedy
18. Martin Prado
19. Mark Ellis
20. Kelly Johnson

Shortstop Rankings – Update

Monday, July 13th, 2009

1. Hanley Ramirez

2. Jimmy Rollins
3. Derek Jeter
4. Troy Tulowitzki
5. Alexei Ramirez
6. Ben Zobrist

7. Stephen Drew
8. Jason Bartlett
9. Jose Reyes
10. Rafael Furcal
11. Asdrubal Cabrera
12. Jhonny Peralta
13. J.J. Hardy
14. Yunel Escobar

15. Ryan Theriot
16. Edgar Renteria
17. Elvis Andrus
18. Marco Scutaro
19. Cristian Guzman
20. Jed Lowrie

Dirty Sanchez

Friday, July 10th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Let’s be clear. Jonathan Sanchez didn’t throw a perfect game Friday. He was better than that, getting 28 outs while walking none, allowing zero hits and striking out 11. The Padres entered the night having scored the fewest runs and with the worst batting average (.234) in baseball, and that was before they traded Scott Hairston, who had the second best OPS on the team. Still, Sanchez was downright filthy Friday, and it was a special performance.

First off, Sanchez wouldn’t have even been starting if not for a Randy Johnson injury (and Eli Whiteside wouldn’t have been catching if not for Bengie Molina’s wife going into labor). Sanchez took his demotion to the bullpen in stride, looking dominant in two relief appearances (4:0 K:BB ratio over three innings), but this was certainly unexpected. While this hardly means future command problems won’t be in store, there was a tangible difference with his mechanics Friday, and this would hardly be the first time a trip to the pen resulted in a starter finally “getting it.”

Aaron Rowand’s catch in center field with one out in the ninth was fantastic, but that was the only non-routine defensive play of the night, and Juan Uribe’s error in the eighth inning was gut wrenching. I really hope he can’t sleep tonight, because he ruined history. And it should be noted Sanchez often struggles out of the stretch, and his first pitch after the error was a wild pitch, so it’s not like he proved he’s over his problems with runners on. Maybe his new strategy will just have to be not letting any baserunners reach.

The dude entered with a 5.94 BB/9 rate – easily the worst in baseball. He had never pitched into the ninth inning of any game professionally, and I loathe sentimental type stories, but Friday also happened to mark the first game his dad was ever at a big league game he started. And this article written today looks hilarious now: “The Giants apparently would be willing to move left-handed starter Jonathan Sanchez, currently a reliever. He alone could not complete a deal for Freddy Sanchez, but the Giants’ system has plenty of pitching prospects.” Ha!! Will it take Tim Alderson or Madison Bumgarner as a throw in to get him? Freddy is a nice player, but the Pirates are actively trying to unload his contract, and Jonathan is a lefty starter with a fastball reaching 95 mph and an absolutely disgusting slider who effectively just tossed the 18th perfect game in major league baseball history.

On a side note, I have Jonathan Sanchez, Manny Parra and Homer Bailey on my NL LABR team. Talk about volatile.

The Scoop

Thursday, July 9th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Two weeks ago, I recommended targeting Alex Rodriguez in trades but also acknowledged that his hip injury made it a risky proposition. I didn’t really follow my own advice, failing to land him in two half-hearted trade offers, mainly because I kept reading about how scouts said he looked terrible and was clearly not his former self. Well, after five homers, 17 RBI and batting .370 over the next 14 games, I’m over listening to scouts. I’ve never tried to base my opinion on a player watching MLB Extra Innings, instead going off just the numbers, and while I understand scouts are important in some aspects, how many times did we hear Carlos Delgado had lost all his bat speed last year before he posted a .991 OPS after the break? It’s just noise, and I’m finished listening to it.

He may be winless over his last two starts, but Homer Bailey has recorded a 2.70 ERA, 0.90 WHIP and an 11:2 K:BB ratio over 13.1 innings. In fact, those numbers would look even better if Cincinnati’s relievers didn’t allow both inherited runners to score from first and second during Bailey’s second start since getting recalled from the minors. His overall numbers still look ugly, but it’s nice to finally see some success at the big league level. Bailey’s average fastball velocity (93.5 mph) ranks in the top-20 among all starters in baseball. Even though he’s disappointed so many times before, I’m still a believer. The improved control is huge.

Travis Hafner’s shoulder remains a concern, and he’s slumped so far during July, but Pronk’s .951 OPS is his highest since 2006. He’s hit a home run every 13.8 at-bats, so the power has returned. Also, once his .229 BA with RISP normalizes, expect more RBI going forward. Hafner is hardly a safe option, but it looks like he can once again be an effective player if he can stay on the field.

Luke Scott has been one of the bigger surprises of 2009. His .975 OPS would rank fourth best in the American League if he qualified. With 17 homers and 50 RBI over just 224 ABs, that kind of production would result in 46 long balls and 134 RBI over a 600 at-bat campaign. And with the way Scott has hit southpaws this season (.328/.392/.716), there’s no reason for him not to be an everyday player for once. Of course, he’s playing over his head this year, but with a .871 career OPS, a huge crash isn’t inevitable for the 31-year-old. Scott is going to be involved in a lot of fantasy championships in 2009.

For me, there hasn’t been a more frustrating player this season than Manny Parra, who ruins No. 2 starter stuff with horrendous control. His trip to the minors was more than warranted after getting abused for 32 runs over a five-start stretch that spanned just 21.1 innings. A 2.92 ERA over four Triple-A outings was nice, but that was accompanied by 13 walks over 24.2 innings, so it’s safe to question whether he truly deserved getting recalled by Milwaukee. Nevertheless, the Brewers badly needed a starter, and Parra made the most of it Thursday, dominating the Cardinals over seven shutout innings. Most impressive was just one base on balls, marking the first time he didn’t walk multiple batters in a start all season. I remain skeptical, and one good start hardly erases just how awful Parra was earlier this season, but he’s worth stashing in deep leagues in case he finally “gets it.” He has a .368 BABIP and a 14.1% HR/F rate while sporting a strong 1.51 G/F ratio, so some good fortune could be coming his way. One other aspect worth noting is that Parra threw some split-finger fastballs during his start Thursday, something the Brewers had previously forbid him from doing in fear of injury. Exactly like Homer Bailey has done, with their respective careers on the line (and the franchises likely fed up), that pitch is now being utilized, which could result in injury. Or finally stardom. Both pitchers are too good to be this bad.

No one is more aggressive with younger players while avoiding the elderly in fantasy football than me (LaDainian Tomlinson will be on zero of my teams this year), but the opposite approach is often wiser in baseball. It’s always more rewarding to peg the younger guy the year he breaks out, but the fact remains pitchers simply must go through growing pains. And for every Ryan Braun, there are many, many more prospects who fail during their first try. Targeting older, boring players like Paul Konerko usually offer better value, and baseball’s cliff is often at least 40 years old. And after David Ortiz’s huge June, remember not to write off aging sluggers so quickly in the future.

Everyone else is doing it, making me jealous, so here are my first half awards:

N.L. MVP – Albert Pujols (runner-up: Prince Fielder)

A.L. MVP – Joe Mauer (runner-up: Zack Greinke)

N.L. Cy Young – Dan Haren (runner-up: Tim Lincecum)

A.L. Cy Young – Zack Greinke (runner-up: Roy Halladay)

N.L. ROY – Colby Rasmus (runner-up: Randy Wells)

A.L. ROY – Ricky Romero (runner-up: Brett Gardner)

Fun facts: According to Baseball Prospectus, Gil Meche has easily been the most “abused” pitcher in baseball…Last season, Bengie Molina tied for the major league lead with 11 sacrifice flies. He leads the majors again this year with 10 already…Ryan Zimmerman has grounded into the most double plays (16) in all of baseball…Kelly Shoppach, who has just 151 at-bats on the year, easily paces the league by getting hit by a pitch 14 times.

The Scoop

Tuesday, July 7th, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

Jonathan Broxton gave up three runs while pitching in Petco Park during his last appearance, but there hasn’t been a more dominant reliever in baseball this season. How about 65 strikeouts over 39.2 innings? A 14.75 K/9 is positively astronomical. He still walks too many batters, but when you combine that kind of ability to miss bats with a strong 1.65 G/F rate, you’re looking at the best closer in MLB, as long as health cooperates. His xFIP is 1.70.

Speaking of pitchers for the Dodgers, Randy Wolf currently has a 3.49 ERA, 1.15 WHIP and a very solid 2.65 K:BB ratio. While he’s obviously been unlucky with just three wins on the year, especially pitching for a team leading baseball with a 52-30 record, he still looks like a sell-high candidate thanks to fortune in other areas. The improved command is nice, but his current 6.81 K/9 rate is actually his worst since 2004 and the second-lowest of his career. It’s not a terrible mark by any means, but for a pitcher who has posted an ERA lower than 4.23 just once since 2002, missing fewer bats can’t help, no matter the upgrade in home ballparks. Wolf currently sports a .261 BABIP (career .299) and the second-highest LOB% (77.4) of his career. His xFIP is 4.34, so see if you can sell.

Casey McGehee has been a fantastic story this season, posting a .343/.396/.567 line over 134 at-bats. However, this is a 26-year-old rookie who has a career .741 OPS throughout 2,577 minor league ABs. I’m not rooting against him, but with a .385 BABIP, don’t be surprised when the inevitable crash happens.

Derek Lowe hasn’t struck out more than four batters in a game since May 6, and he hasn’t fanned more than five since April 25. More worrisome than that, his GB% (53.8) is by far the lowest of his career (at least since they started recording the stat in 2002), and it’s not even close, as last year’s 60.3% was his second worst, which also points out a discouraging trend. I’m not ready to write off Lowe, but with a 4.72 K/9, 3.04 BB/9 and a lucky 5.1% HR/F rate, he’ll need to start pitching considerably better for that contract not to look like a disaster for Atlanta.

Heading into 2009 with Jarrod Saltalamacchia, Taylor Teagarden and Max Ramirez on their roster, it seemed like catcher was a position of strength for the Rangers. Instead, all three have been huge disappointments. Salty has fanned 82 times over 220 at-bats, has posted a .671 OPS and has gotten worse over each month this season. Teagarden has countered with an anemic .232/.289/.319 line and is still searching for his first home run of 2009. Ramirez, meanwhile, has a .640 OPS for Oklahoma City in the offensive-heavy PCL league.

With a 7.11 BB/9 mark, I’m beginning to suspect David Price isn’t quite ready to dominate major league hitters just yet. Of course, a 9.47 K/9 also portends a very bright future, so his long-term outlook hasn’t changed much, but after a lackluster performance in the minors earlier this year, his rise to stardom is clearly going to be slower than first anticipated.

I won’t be silly and go nuts over every All-Star selection, but a few comments can’t hurt too much. Yovani Gallardo’s snub was bad, but leaving Javier Vazquez off the roster is downright criminal. He’s been one of the five best pitchers in all of baseball this season. And for anyone arguing against fan voting, that is completely ruined by the laughable Tim Wakefield selection – players/managers/coaches would make just as many mistakes and probably more. And as for the NL fan vote, it comes down to Mark Reynolds vs. Pablo Sandoval. Reynolds may deserve to play in the game, but in this scenario, is it even all that close? Sandoval has a higher batting average, on-base percentage and slugging percentage, and in the first two cases by wide margins (63 and 32 points, respectively), while playing in a park that is by far more pitcher friendly than Chase Field, which has ranked as the No. 1 stadium in boosting runs scored according to Park Factors in 2009. Moreover, Sandoval has played better defense than Reynolds, making this a pretty easy call.

Wimbledon has definitely produced two of the better tennis matches in recent memory over the past couple of years, but how inevitable was that Andy Roddick loss? I was definitely rooting for him (not that I’d ever feel sorry for someone going home to this), and his genuine emotion was pretty cool, especially when he gave the smug Federer a perfect response during the end ceremony (thanks for your condolences asshole, but it had to have been a little easier losing last year when you’ve already won five Wimbledon titles). That said, this match wasn’t truly epic like last year’s, because when two power players like this meet up, there are very few rallies. I mean, out of the 30 (30!) games in the final set, I doubt even five made it to a “deuce.” Still, good stuff – and don’t get me started about NBC not airing the semi-final match live.

I may be in the minority, as it seems, but I thought “Public Enemies” was sick. An argument has been a lack of character development – well, John Dillinger became this icon in a 13-month span! Michael Mann executed this perfectly, in my opinion. He was even painstakingly (maybe even too?) detailed. Not a true classic, but a very good movie.

Fantasy Football Draft

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

I recently participated in an industry draft and figured I’d share the results (at least the first eight rounds). This wasn’t just a mock, as it will be played out. Starting lineup featured 2RB, 3WR and a flex, so it’s pretty deep. One point-per-reception for wide receivers and 0.5 PPR for running backs. Also, six points for passing TDs.

ROUND ONE

1. RotoWire – Maurice Jones-Drew

2. CreativeSports – Adrian Peterson

3. MockDraftCentral – Matt Forte

4. Football Guys – LaDainian Tomlinson

5. FantasyCrowd – Chris Johnson

6. Draft Sharks – Larry Fitzgerald

7. Krause – Andre Johnson

8. RotoWorld – Steven Jackson

9. Krause – Michael Turner

10. RotoTimes – Brian Westbrook

11. RotoExperts – DeAngelo Williams

12. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Calvin Johnson

Comments: I love Peterson, but factoring in the half point per reception, I decided to go with MJD instead. The Jaguars get the NFC West (Minny gets Baltimore and Pittsburgh) out of conference this season, and the playoff schedule (Mia, Ind, @NE) looks pretty favorable. LaDainian Tomlinson at four was mind-boggling.

ROUND TWO

13. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Clinton Portis

14. RotoExperts – Frank Gore

15. RotoTimes – Steve Slaton

16. Krause – Randy Moss

17. RotoWorld – Marion Barber

18. Krause – Steve Smith

19. Draft Sharks – Ronnie Brown

20. Fantasy Crowd – Kevin Smith

21. Football Guys – Tom Brady

22. MockDraftCentral – Reggie Wayne

23. CreativeSports – Anquan Boldin

24. RotoWire – Greg Jennings

Comments: While Gore was tremendous value here, Slaton was even better, considering he’s No. 4 on my board. He should not be going in the second round. After taking Tomlinson in the first and a QB in the second, it’s safe to say my strategy differs just a tad from the “Football Guys.”

ROUND THREE

25. RotoWire – Roddy White

26. CreativeSports – Brandon Jacobs

27. MockDraftCentral – Drew Brees

28. Football Guys – Reggie Bush

29. FantasyCrowd – Peyton Manning

30. Draft Sharks – Marques Colston

31. Krause – Pierre Thomas

32. RotoWorld – Dwayne Bowe

33. Krause – Brandon Marshall

34. RotoTimes – Wes Welker

35. RotoExperts – Terrell Owens

36. Fantasy Football Guidebook – T.J. Houshmandzadeh

Comments: I normally draft running backs with my first two picks and often my first three, but with a mandatory 3WR lineup, a deeper RB group in 2009 and a shallower WR class, I went with Jennings and White at the turn, and it was made easier because I have a hard time differentiating the two. I almost went Jacobs, who was a steal at this point, and after bashing the team’s first two picks, I actually like Bush here – he’s officially become an underrated fantasy commodity. Loved the Thomas selection as well – in most leagues, I assume he’ll be a second round pick come August. I value Bowe pretty closely to both the WRs I went with, so he was terrific value as a late third rounder.

ROUND FOUR

37. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Ryan Grant

38. RotoExperts – Roy Williams

39. RotoTimes – Aaron Rodgers

40. Krause – Jason Witten

41. RotoWorld – Eddie Royal

42. Krause – Derrick Ward

43. Draft Sharks – Knowshon Moreno

44. Fantasy Crowd – Dallas Clark

45. Football Guys – Darren McFadden

46. MockDraftCentral – Larry Johnson

47. CreativeSports – Chad Johnson

48. RotoWire – Beanie Wells

Comments: I was really hoping Royal would fall, but it wasn’t even close. RotoWorld did great getting Bowe and Royal in the last two rounds. It’s extremely early for Dallas Clark here, especially with how deep the TE group is. I’ll write more about Wells later on, but I expect him to end up on a bunch of my teams this year. He’s going to be a monster, and I think he’s worth second round consideration.

ROUND FIVE

49. RotoWire – Braylon Edwards

50. CreativeSports – Antonio Bryant

51. MockDraftCentral – Antonio Gates

52. Football Guys – Tony Gonzalez

53. FantasyCrowd – Vincent Jackson

54. Draft Sharks – Marshawn Lynch

55. Krause – Kurt Warner

56. RotoWorld – Joseph Addai

57. Krause – Thomas Jones

58. RotoTimes – Jonathan Stewart

59. RotoExperts – Hines Ward

60. Fantasy Football Guidebook – DeSean Jackson

Comments: I strongly considered Anthony Gonzalez here but went with Edwards instead. A bounce back is likely, but Brady Quinn’s lack of downfield ability is a concern. At least Kellen Winslow is gone. Round 5 marked three straight “Antonios” being drafted, which was fun. I’ve previously thought Lynch was a bit overrated, and the suspension is definitely noteworthy, but he’s good value here. I would have taken Stewart ahead of Addai and Thomas Jones.

ROUND SIX

61. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Willie Parker

62. RotoExperts – Anthony Gonzalez

63. RotoTimes – Santonio Holmes

64. Krause – Philip Rivers

65. RotoWorld – Lee Evans

66. Krause – Felix Jones

67. Draft Sharks – Donovan McNabb

68. Fantasy Crowd – Bernard Berrian

69. Football Guys – Torry Holt

70. MockDraftCentral – Donald Driver

71. CreativeSports – Tony Romo

72. RotoWire – Matt Schaub

Comments: I actually considered Romo with my last pick, and he nearly made it all the way back to me. Alas, I had to settle on Schaub. Felix Jones could be a difference maker.

ROUND SEVEN

73. RotoWire – Donald Brown

74. CreativeSports – Cedric Benson

75. MockDraftCentral – Laveranues Coles

76. Football Guys – Donnie Avery

77. FantasyCrowd – Steve Breaston

78. Draft Sharks – Jerricho Cotchery

79. Krause – Lance Moore

80. RotoWorld – Ray Rice

81. Krause – Santana Moss

82. RotoTimes – Derrick Mason

83. RotoExperts – LenDale White

84. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Michael Crabtree

Comments: I wouldn’t trade Brown for Addai straight up, so I was happy to nab him here. It might not be ideal having him as my flex early in the season, but he looks like the type of pick who could win the league for me. He’s a special talent in a terrific situation, whereas Addai is an average back. Addai will certainly get the veteran treatment, meaning the starting job and majority of carries, but he’s extremely injury-prone, and over his last 22 games played, he’s gained more than 80 yards rushing once. Liked the Rice pick as well.

ROUND EIGHT

85. Fantasy Football Guidebook – Jamal Lewis

86. RotoExperts – LeSean McCoy

87. RotoTimes – Julius Jones

88. Krause – Darren Sproles

89. RotoWorld – Jay Cutler

90. Krause – Kevin Walter

91. Draft Sharks – Fred Jackson

92. Fantasy Crowd – Leon Washington

93. Football Guys – Devin Hester

94. MockDraftCentral – Matt Cassel

95. CreativeSports – Ted Ginn

96. RotoWire – Matt Ryan

Comments: I had my heart set on Hester, but he was stolen from me just three picks ahead. I ended up with very little WR depth as a result. With a year under his belt, Michael Turner a candidate to get hurt and Tony Gonzalez added, Matty Ice could be huge in 2009, and I always go with the wait on QBs but then draft a few strategy, as that position can easily be manipulated through weekly opponents.

My final team:

QB – Matt Schaub

RB – Maurice Jones-Drew

RB – Beanie Wells

WR – Greg Jennings

WR – Roddy White

WR – Braylon Edwards

Flex – Donald Brown

TE – Zach Miller

K – Nick Folk

D – Titans

B – Matt Ryan

B – Ahmad Bradshaw

B – Shonn Greene

B – Laurence Maroney

B – Mark Bradley

B – Eagles

NBA Mock

Friday, July 3rd, 2009

Rounds three, four and five now in the books.

The Scoop

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

By Dalton Del Don

After throwing the most pitches (3,914) in all of baseball last year, I avoided Cole Hamels at the draft table in 2009. And while I’m still concerned with his health moving forward, he’s actually a pretty good trade target right now, especially for teams lower in the standings trying to swing for the fences. He currently sports a 4.98 ERA and 1.47 WHIP, which makes zero sense combined with an elite 4.3:1 K:BB ratio. Looking at his pitch types, he’s throwing his fastball a bit more this season and his curveball less, but his velocity is pretty much the same (90.0 mph compared to 90.4 mph last year), and he claims he feels perfectly fine physically. Actually, his control has improved this season compared to last (1.91 BB/9 versus 2.10) as well as his K rate (8.15 K/9 versus 7.76), and his G/F ratio is a career-best (1.27). With a .371 BABIP (career-mark is .284), a .684 strand rate and a 13.3% HR/F ratio, few pitchers have been unluckier this season. In fact, Hamels’ xFIP (3.38) is the ninth best in MLB, so it’s safe to expect a terrific second half of the season, assuming last year’s workload doesn’t prevent it.

Carl Crawford has been nothing short of fantastic this season, and he’s likely on plenty of fantasy teams leading their league. But I don’t see a big difference in value between him and Jacoby Ellsbury moving forward. Crawford possesses more power, but his career-high in homers is just 18, and he’s only surpassed 11 bombs twice during his career (although he’s almost certain to do so this year). And it’s not as great of a difference as one would think, as Crawford has hit a home run once every 52.6 at-bats throughout his career, while Ellsbury has done so once every 60.5 ABs. Ellsbury already has better plate discipline (20:29 K:BB compared to 26:52), and while Crawford currently holds the advantage in RBI and runs scored, with Ellsbury hitting in Boston’s lineup and Fenway Park, that gap should narrow in the future. After all, Crawford’s career OPS is .770, and Ellsbury’s is .758. I’m not trying to take anything away from Crawford, who has returned to the fantasy elite this year, it’s just that Ellsbury isn’t far behind, and given the choice between the two of who will steal more bases over the rest of the season, my money is on Ellsbury. Of course, I’d happily take B.J. Upton over both of them.

Over his last five starts, Jordan Zimmermann has a 2.12 ERA, 1.01 WHIP and 28:7 K:BB ratio. He has just three wins with a 4.52 ERA on the season, but this rookie has an even better K rate (8.92/9) than Zack Greinke, and his average fastball velocity (93.3 mph) ranks 14th best in baseball. Zimmermann also keeps the ball on the ground (1.18 G/F), and while wins could be elusive pitching for the Nationals, if he qualified, his xFIP (3.35) would be better than pitchers such as Josh Johnson, Felix Hernandez, Yovani Gallardo and Chad Billingsley. It really wouldn’t be too big of a stretch to call Zimmermann a top-30 fantasy starter right now.

If you prorate Joey Votto’s numbers over 162 games, here’s what pace he’s on this season: .366 BA, 30 homers, 134 RBI, 93 runs scored and seven steals, which means he’ll have to be considered during the second round of drafts in 2010. Of course, his .402 BABIP reveals an inevitable decline in average, but this is a 25-year-old who posted a .959 OPS after the All-Star break last season and has recorded a sick 15:20 K:BB ratio over his past 28 games. Votto is actually hitting left-handers better than righties this season, and he plays in a home park that has been the third most conducive to home runs in all of baseball this year. I’d prefer Votto to Adrian Gonzalez or Ryan Howard over the rest of this season.

Jair Jurrjens posted a 1.72 ERA and 1.24 WHIP during June despite an ugly 16:14 K:BB ratio over 31.1 innings, making him a sell-high candidate at the time. While those peripherals suggested a major crash was in store, he’s followed that up with ERAs of 3.38 and 3.68 during May and June, respectively, and a funny thing happened along the way – he started pitching much better. In May he posted a 2.7:1 K:BB ratio, and over his last 41.1 innings, he’s tallied a strong 8.49 K/9 mark (and nearly half those starts came against the Red Sox and Phillies), so superior pitching has negated the supposed regression. It’s just something to note – just because a pitcher has been lucky, doesn’t mean he can’t improve in other areas to avoid an inevitable collapse (Matt Cain is another good example here).

Over his last 28 games, Juan Rivera has 10 homers and 29 RBI. He’s done the majority of his damage against left-handers, posting a massive .407/.478/.814 line with six of his 14 homers versus southpaws over just 59 at-bats, but the stats count all the same. Finally given a chance as a full-time player, he’s taking full advantage of the opportunity, and of all American League hitters who have slugged .515 (like he has) or better this season, he’s struck out the fewest amount of times (26) by a wide margin. In fact, the next closest (Victor Martinez) has fanned 15 more times. Rivera is proving to be a steal in fantasy leagues.

For someone with an 8.64 ERA over his last three starts, the window to sell Jered Weaver high has probably passed, and while a complete collapse is hardly in store, further regression should be expected. Through 90.2 innings this season, he had a 2.08 ERA – this despite worse control and a decreased K rate compared to last year, and since 2007, his G/F ratio is going in the wrong direction (0.73, 0.68, 0.59). A low BABIP (.262), high strand rate (.764) and fortunate HR/F rate (8.8%) has had just as much to do with Weaver’s 2009 breakout as any tangible improvement in pitching ability. Don’t get me wrong, he’s solid, but just realize his xFIP (4.58) ranks 65th among all starters.

Fun fact: Including this year, over the past eight seasons, the pitcher who has faced the toughest schedule (aggregate OPS) has been in the AL East seven times: A.J. Burnett .781 (2009), Matt Garza .767 (2008), Roy Halladay .775 (2007), Josh Beckett .784 (2006), Zack Greinke .767 (2005), Rodrigo Lopez .785 (2004), Victor Zambrano .781 (2003) and Tanyon Sturtze .767 (2002).