Drafting back in

It’s been a while, but I’m going to be back to blogging on a regular basis, perhaps even daily. Anyway, right down to the news. As many people now know, the 2007 Rule 4 Draft was televised on ESPN 2 for the first time and I spent part of my afternoon following that. Living in Detroit, a lot of fans should be pleased with Rick Porcello, who was certainly regarded as possibly the best high school pitching talent in the draft but fell as a Scott Boras client. I was also happy to see the Royals take INF Mike Moustakas, a guy who broke the California high school home run record and may turn into a 2B the way things look in Kansas City right now. Obviously, P David Price would be the easy pick to make it to the majors first for the D-Rays. He may follow a similar track to the Tigers’ Andrew Miller, who was just recalled for Nate Robertson who went on the DL with arm fatigue.

A new feature I’m going to be adding will be very similar to the "pitch or ditch" strategy most employ in daily mixed leagues. I’m going to take 3 starters who I think are primed to have good starts each day and put them out there, guys who may not be obvious candidates. I think you’re going to see some bombs every few days, but I’d like to at least keep the experiment going on for around a month and see what kind of results it yields. With that being said, here’s today’s 3 Strikes:

Jeff Francis (@ BAL)

Carlos Silva (vs. WAS)

Justin Germano (vs. SEA)

I like the Gaudin vs. Lincecum matchup to be a pretty good pitching duel as well in the Bay Area, but I think it’s risky for a win to pick both, although both are good starts.

A few notes of interest:

  • Alex Gordon owners must be ecstatic over his day yesterday; I know I was. His 4-for-4 day was good for more hits than he’s gotten over the past few weeks, and that included a HR short of the cycle. Chances are you probably counted on him as your 3B in AL-Only leagues and possibly a CI as his value increased near Opening Day in mixed leagues. If he was cut in your league, now’s the time to watch for him. If owners are jumping on Josh Fields, Gordon should be watched as well. The way it looks, I think Fields is going to get a long look at 3B while we’re on the subject. Crede may have seen his last days in black and white.
  • Some mid-range closers I would be weary of right now: Octavio Dotel, Eric Gagne and Brian Fuentes. More than likely, I see the Royals shipping Dotel for prospects before the deadline, and word is the Tigers have been asking the Rangers if either Gagne or Akinori Otsuka is available. Gagne may not be racking up saves, but he is starting to look like the guy who put together one of the great relief performances in baseball history as of late. And although the Rockies are just a game or two under .500, they have a 15-game run ahead of teams from the AL East. If they win 6 games, I think that’s probably decent.
  • Shea Hillenbrand may have gotten off what he believed was a sinking ship last year in Toronto, but if you haven’t gotten a lifeboat yet, now’s the time to get off Shea’s. He’s just recently lost his full-time job according to Mike Scioscia, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s cut or demoted within the next month based on all the returning players the halos have.
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Rain Delay

All apologies for the long delay since the last post. Finals have been incredibly hectic among some other personal things going on. Employment is also less than accomodating in Detroit and that’s been unfortunately a greater concern as of late. Here’s just a few random notes before I get to another full post in the next few days.

  • Some guys just can’t shake bad habits or splits. Ervin Santana is 2-0 with a 1.93 ERA this year in Los Angeles, and 0-3 with over a nine ERA this year on the road. This was the knock on Santana coming into this year, so while he continues to dazzle at home it doesn’t look like this is something he’s going to overcome this year. Unless he shakes this habit, owners expecting a breakout might look towards 2008.
  • Continuing on the Halo path, owners that picked up Brandon Wood have to be wishing that Chone Figgins wasn’t returning tonight. Along with guys like Hunter Pence and Billy Butler, obviously Wood is one of the top hitting prospects and one of the few shortstops in the American League who could provide legitimate power. The Angels will enjoy any power they can get at this point I’m sure, especially since Kendrick went down.
  • Also in the AL West, the A’s paid about $8 million for a good amount of production from Mike Piazza to replace what they lost from the Big Hurt. So far he’s been about average, batting .274 with one home run and eight RBI’s. There were some questions to whether the former catcher was losing bat speed which may have been legitimate, but he’s still shown enough quickness to make pitchers pay for their mistakes. A line of about 20 HR’s and 75 RBI’s should still be reasonable.
  • Credit first to Rob Neyer of ESPN.com, then to Dan Rosenheck who wrote the article from the New York Times. A great piece on the superiority of the AL compared to the National League that you can find right here. It offers a few suggestions for correcting the imbalance and whatnot, but a good piece of writing for baseball altogether.

Good luck as we get into the second month of baseball to fantasy owners. Both of my closers in my auction league are sitting on their butts, or not so much for Eric Gagne. Also, to Curt Schilling, you’re welcome to take a few journalism classes and be a professional sports writer. I bet you won’t get any bloody ankles unless you trip over a mic cord or anything, either. Unless the sock was fake, of course.

Weather Permitting

Maybe Mother Nature thought that rising unemployment and the flailing auto industry was enough, but here in Detroit we missed out on the storm that made Sports Center over the weekend. Most AL owners were somehow affected by the blizzard that has trudged through the Cleveland area by now.

This definitely has an impact for a few reasons. One, Victor Martinez owners have to look at this as a positive. Whenever these games are made up he should be healthy, and it’s more than likely a few less games he misses. Some guys, like catchers and others, may end up getting one less game out of this as the games will now be played as double headers. I think the guys on the Fantasy 411 made a good point yesterday that even the four or eight at bats you could possibly miss out on could make a difference in October when the standings are final in your league. Travis Hafner has been sorely missed on my team as my offensive stable, and even without any power numbers tonight, I still enjoyed his 2-for-3 day to raise my bumbling average a few points.

Updates might be lacking here in the next two weeks as I’m packed with work up until finals at college, but a few more tidbits for now:

  • I bet that guy at your draft that paid $40 or drafted him top five is happy with A-Rod’s production right about now. The grand slam a few nights ago was probably vindicating. But enough’s been written about it, it’s a mute point in my opinion.
  • Way too early to panic yet, but no HR’s yet from Mark Teixeira. I still think he rebounds for about 40 give or take either way, but I know there’s owners out there who paid the money and are expecting them. Don’t panic, yet.
  • I think I might be in the only league in the nation where B.J. Upton is available, in my AL-Auction league no less. An owner at our draft thought he had room for him and our commissioner overlooked his eligibility until a day after the draft when this owner had to release him. One reason he’s still out there is we only have 3 FA pickups per year, but I know there’s bigger blunders on someone’s team. I’m thinking of making a move; I’ll have to drop Kevin Millar, who’s already got two HR’s and my team is short on power, and when Chone Figgins is ready to come back for my team I’d have to move him to the middle infield and drop Aaron Hill who’s off to a hot start. If you have the luxury, draft more for power and find steals later. Power is much harder to trade for, even more so in casual leagues. It’s a problem I’m having myself right now.
  • A few unfortunate outings for San Fransisco’s young gun pitchers. Both Matt Cain and Noah Lowry are still without victories despite 3 outings of 20 IP and only 5 ER combined. To the offenses’ credit, they were shut out yesterday by the Padres’ Chris Young. Credit the San Diego organization for signing him to a new deal, as he definitely deserves it. That’s a guy Texas really should have kept.

Hope to be back with more on Thursday. Good luck to everyone in ESPN leagues with all the trouble they’ve had over there, hopefully it hasn’t totally ruined your fantasy experience so far this season.

All Aboard the Orient

All the fantasy baseball world will be talking about the Red Sox-Royals game earlier today, and for several good reasons.

If a verdict can’t be in too soon, Daisuke Matsuzaka was worth the dollars that Boston threw at him. With the exception of a sixth inning where Matsuzaka should have probably yielded more than one run, Dice-K held the Royals lineup to just six hits in seven innings and 10 K’s to boot. What worries me is the Red Sox allowing him to go for 108 pitches. This guy’s thrown a lot of innings overseas and that’s something for owners to keep an eye on. Probably encouraging for David DeJesus owners that he had the most success against the import, including a single and a home run into the Royals bullpen. A lot of people are forecasting DeJesus to jump to 15 bombs or so due in part to the fact that he’s the magical age of 27 perhaps, but I see him staying around 10 or so.

Probably missed outside all this hype will be what could be the resurgence of a pitcher who guys like Peter Gammons called the "next Greg Maddux." Zack Greinke showed why he was once the most prized prospect in the organization as well, giving up just one earned run over the course of 7 IP and fanned seven as well. Greinke had good command of his circle change and was painting the corners nicely. He might not get the wins that would make him valuable in mixed leagues, but AL-Owners could find good value in ERA and WHIP if Greinke continues to put up starts similar to this. You could certainly do worse in an un-mixed league.

I talked to several guys who were willing to pay around $10 in AL-Auction leagues for Mark Buehrle, which is exactly what he ended up going for in my own league. I got Dan Haren for the same price in this draft, so no thanks on Buehrle. With all the talk of the dead arm on this guy, things only got worse with the news of the bruised forearm on his pitching arm Thursday. Until John Danks progresses, the only guy I’d want to own on that staff, and at a discount price probably, is the tantalizing Javier Vazquez.

For everyone who caught the Cardinals-Mets game on ESPN2 last night, I really thought Brandon Looper looked good but he ended up getting knocked around a little bit, though not as bad as the Cards bullpen. He had some movement on his breaking stuff but just couldn’t put it together against that monster lineup. On the other hand, John Maine was flat dominant giving up just one hit in seven. Pretty impressive from a guy who really ended strong last year. Maine is probably a fringe guy to fill a mixed rotation or a No. 4 or 5 starter in NL-Only leagues to start the year, but there’s upside here.

Tonight I’m looking forward to seeing Andy Pettitte back in pinstripes. It’s not going to be a given against a Devil Rays lineup that’s probably without Rocco Baldelli tonight, but it’s going to be a good one. The fantasy eye will stay fixated on the roles of B.J. Upton and Elijah Dukes and what kind of playing time they’ll continue to get. I really needed power in my auction league, so when Figgins was injured I moved and picked up Kevin Millar, but Upton is looking like he might have been a good choice regardless. If and when he gains middle infield eligibility in your league he’s probably worth picking up over some guys.

AL-Auction Results + Opening Day

Hope everyone had a great Opening Day. Skipped classes of course, but all worth it to head down to Comerica Park and see a good game between the home team and the Jays. Unfortunately the guys sitting behind us made the idea of prohibiton look pretty good, but it was overall a great game and I got a save out of B.J. Ryan as well.

A few interesting things on Monday; obviously Gil Meche, Ben Sheets and Felix Hernandez owners had to be happy. I was big on Hernandez, as many were, and I don’t think this is a fluke. He’s going to take that next step this year. As a Royals fan, I saw the good in the Meche signing, but a phenomenal outing against the Red Sox was more than any Royal fan could ask for. Greinke going up against Matsuzaka on Thursday is going to be a great one.

Moving on, I arrived on Saturday afternoon for the fifth year I’ve been in my AL-Only auction league. This is the first year I’ve done it on my own, and my former partner and I got our plaque from winning last year which was a good feeling. $240 budget here with 21 players. Here’s how I fared:

C: Pierzynski 1

1B: Shealy 3

2B: Roberts 23

3B: Gordon 15

SS: Hill 5

MI: Ellis 5

CI: Figgins 16

OF: Anderson 8

OF: Baldelli 15

OF: Reed Johnson 4

OF: Lofton 5

OF: Willy Mo Pena 2

P: Gagne 14

P: Ryan 25

P: Bedard 17

P: Bonser 9

P: Greinke 6

P: Haren 10

P: Kazmir 21

P: Loewen 3

Reserves: Millar 1 (For Figgins), Duscherer 1 (For Gagne)

As far as the positives, there’s a few here. I’ve got three potential No. 1 starters here in AL-Only leagues with Bedard, Kazmir and Haren, with Haren being a complete bargain at 10. Last year we threw saves, but I decided with someone like Nathan or K-Rod going at 28 earlier, Ryan wasn’t a bad deal at 25. At the end of the draft, I was unable to grab Iguchi, so with the money I had left Gagne was really the best big name left and filled my second closer spot at that point. I’m not big on him honestly, but if he rebounds I can win saves.

Where my batting is concerned, I think this team wins the league in steals. The league was pretty split, as some teams were very stacked with power and others with steals. I still believe that Figgins at 16 is a great deal, as I had him marked down to somewhere around 20. Because of the short number of owners for our league catchers will go for a buck, and while I liked Piazza this year I ended up with Pierzynski. I’m hoping he rebounds in average but I’m not crossing fingers or anything here.

This is the first year I can say that I made a huge mistake. I trapped myself about 80% of the way through when I grabbed Willy Mo Pena for $2 and had to move Figgins to 3B. That locked me at that corner spot and left me without the power guy I needed. Mark Teahan was still available, and while I probably wouldn’t have gotten Gagne (may have ended up with Dotel instead, not saying that would have been a great move), Teahan would have given me the HR/RBI numbers that I desperately needed at the time. I picked up Ellis after that also, and the Millar pick to replace Figgins were both moves I made to address the shortcoming.

Everything said, I’m not worried about my pitching. Even if Gagne fails, I can probably throw saves, trade Ryan for some power and some good starting pitching (maybe a guy who can win some games as well with my wins possibly lacking) and execute the strategy used to win the league last year. Best case scenario, I’d like to move a guy like Bonser who I think will probably do well this year and has high value for some power in the middle. I’ve got the same problems as everyone, and I’m willing to give up fair value in my trades.

I’m looking forward to seeing Bonser in action though tonight, and I like Blanton a lot tonight in Seattle, always favorable matchups there for pitchers. I’ll be back on Thursday most likely with some more on this opening week as well as some guys who might be on the waiver wire in mixed leagues as well as AL.