Thursday, July 5, 2007
Midseason Fantasy Baseball All-Star Team
Since we have reached the midpoint of the MLB season (even though the All-Star game has yet to be played) and the All-Star rosters have has just been released, I thought it might be interesting to reflect on the 2007 Fantasy Baseball All-Star rosters. Plenty of these have been released by many industry experts, but my criteria is a bit different. Basically, it involves value. Which players have given their managers the most for their money or draft position? In short, I’m looking for bargains. Criteria includes ADP (average draft position in Yahoo leagues), VORP (value over replacement player), and total fantasy category contribution in a traditional 5x5 league for 12 teams.
CATCHER: Russell Martin (.301AVG.-9HRs-55RBIs-47Rs-16SBs)
This one is a no-brainer. There is no other comparable five category contributor at the catcher position in fantasy baseball and his #24 overall ranking attests to it. This is one of the few players who will start on my fantasy all-star team while also starting on the actual NL squad. Freakin’ French Canadiens.
Honorable Mention: John Buck
FIRST BASE: Prince Fielder (.278-27-66-59-0)
This kid can rake. Too bad his dad’s a jerk. Currently, Prince is the #9 ranked player overall. Though he was hyped I don’t think anyone could have expected this type of performance so early in his career (he's only 23). Will he be this year’s version of the ’06 Ryan Howard? Personally, I doubt that. Surprisingly, this was a two-horse race. Carlos Pena challenges Fielder based on utter value. Pena is currently the #9 first baseman and ranked #62 overall. Consider that he’s on pace for 35+ homeruns and 95+ RBIs while not even being drafted in the average Yahoo league. Wow, that’s a free agent bargain. Can he sustain this pace? Slight edge to Fielder based on the volume of his numbers. By the way, did anyone see Prince’s head-first slide into Mark Loretta’s shin? How did his leg not snap like a twig?
Honorable Mention: Dmitri Young
SECOND BASE: Brandon Phillips (.270-16-46-55-15)
This was the first tough call. The best 2nd baseman in MLB is Chase Utley, hands down, but in most leagues he cost someone a 1st round pick, so he does not fit my criteria. That left me with Phillips, Placido Polanco, Dan Uggla, and Ian Kinsler to choose from. Brandon Philips is currently ranked #38 overall and offers value in all five categories, something that no other 2nd baseman offers. Brian Roberts had a very high VORP (35.8), but his ADP was 55, which, in my book, is not low enough to warrant bargain status. Plus, VORP is not a pure fantasy statistic, so we need to look at it with some measure of skepticism, though it is a valuable tool.
Honorable Mention: Aaron Hill
SHORTSTOP: Orlando Cabrera (.332-5-48-54-9)
Remember when shortstop was a shallow position? If you are managing a team without a solid shortstop, you are probably in trouble this season. Of course, such depth means there’s always one to trade for. This decision was very difficult. Given the criteria, it came down to Cabrera, Carlos Guillen, Edgar Renteria, and J.J Hardy (currently the 5th, 4th, 6th, and 7th ranked shortstops). Even though Guillen holds an edge over O-Cabs in the power department (5 HRs to 12 HRs), it is not enough to make up the difference in ADP (181-76=105). I also considered J.J Hardy, mostly because he went undrafted in most Yahoo leagues, but, his last month and a half have been bad enough to restore his mortality and temper all of our fantasy expectations. Plus, of the four shortstops considered, his is the only VORP below 29 (21.1).
Honorable Mention: Jhonny Peralta
THIRD BASE: Kevin Youkilis (.329-9-44-50-2)
Another deep position, this is clearly a three horse race between Kevin Youkilis , Mike Lowell, and Casey Blake, ranked 4th, 5th, and 9th at the third base position. Each of these players’ ADP is between 204 and 216 so not much differentiates each of them here: They were all similar bargains on draft day. When we turn to VORP, we see a more drastic difference, this is where Youk separates himself. His VORP is about 10 points higher than Mike Lowell’s (19.6) and 14 higher than Blake’s (16.1). Plus, he has that ever-valuable multiple position eligibility. That’s enough for me, though you can’t go wrong with any of these three.
Honorable Mention: Ryan Braun
OUTFIELD: Shane Victorino (.274-10-35-52-25)
It is a tragedy that the African-American baseball player is disappearing before our eyes. But what about the Hawaiian Major Leaguer? Where have all the Hawaiins gone (Cowboys too I suppose)? We need to uphold the legacies of Benny Agbayani, Sid Fernadez, and Charlie Hough. Where’s the outrage on this one Bud? Thankfully, Shane Victorino is doing his part. Ranked 34th overall, he’s a fantasy stud this season. He’s on his way to 20 HRs and 50 Sbs, which sounds a lot like Carl Crawford territory to me (actually ranked ahead of Crawford!). Of course, Shane Victorino was not a first rounder but a free agent pickup in a lot of leagues. What a bargain. Bring on the Hawaiians!
OUTFIELD: Curtis Granderson (.284-11-42-59-9)
It’s hard to believe Curtis Granderson leads all major league center fielders in slugging percentage. When you break down his stats they are really quite impressive. He’s the first player since Nomar Garciaparra in 2003 to reach double digits in doubles, triples, and home runs by the all-star break. One more steal and that would be double digits in four categories. Granderson is also on pace to break the single season record for triples: He currently has fifteen. Each of these stats may not directly affect fantasy baseball, (unless you have a very non-traditional scoring format), but when those doubles, triples and steals happen to occur at the top of the Major League’s most potent offense, runs tend to follow.
OUTFIELD: Eric Byrnes
Based on current projections, there are four outfielders with reasonable expectations to reach 30 homeruns and 30 stolen bases by season’s end. The first three are the usual suspects: Alfonso Soriano, Carlos Beltran, and Grady Sizemore (ADPs: 5, 10, and 21). The fourth? Eric Byrnes. Who would have guessed? He’s been the only constant in that desert Diamondback lineup, and he’s shown no signs of slowing down. He has shown some history of 30/30 potential (last year he went 26/25) but it remains to be seen whether he can sustain a .300+ average. We shall see.
Honorable Mentions: Corey Hart. Magglio Ordonez, Ken Griffey Jr., Hunter Pence, and Gary Matthews Jr.
STARTING PITCHER: Brad Penny (112.2 IPs-10Ws -77Ks-2.00ERA-1.12WHIP)
VORP: 45.2 (highest among all pitchers)
In 2004, rookie G.M. and Billy Beane disciple Paul Depodesta traded away Guillermo Mota, Paul LoDuca and Juan Encarnacion for Brad Penny, Hee Seop Choi, and a minor league lefty, Bill Murphy. He was widely criticized by the locals, mostly because they viewed LoDuca as the heart of Dodger nation. Well, three years later, now that Depodesta has been fired, that trade doesn’t look so bad, especially in a market where Barry Zito gets $17 mil. a year and Gil Meche gets $11. The former Dodger G.M. saw Russell Martin sitting in the pipeline and the potential of Brad Penny pitching in the weak-hitting NL West. Unfortunately, it took three years for that potential to be realized due to injuries. If you own Brad Penny this year in fantasy you have a Cy Young candidate who you probably drafted in the later rounds that is the anchor of your staff. Enjoy the ride. Depodesta couldn’t.
STARTING PITCHER: John Maine (102.0 IPs-9Ws-84Ks-2.74ERA-1.15WHIP)
Hats off to Mets G.M. Omar Minaya. Everyone thought he should upgrade his pitching staff before the season began and he did nothing, exhibiting confidence in those already on the books, a crop of rookies, has-beens, and underachievers. In the last category, and acquired from Baltimore for Kris Benson and Jorge Julio is the current anchor of the Mets pitching staff, John Maine. In many fantasy leagues this guy went undrafted, but he has been a pleasant surprise. Even if he adds an entire run to that ERA in the second half, putting it near 4.00, the wins should keep coming, as the Mets offense is stellar. Touche Omar Minaya, your secret’s out. Not only did you get rid of Jorge Julio and the headache that was Anna Benson, but you’ve supplied us with an anchor for our future fantasy baseball staffs.
STARTING PITCHER: Ian Snell (116.2 IPs-7Ws-93Ks-2.93ERA-1.17ERA)
Ian Snell has emerged as the ace of the Pittsburgh staff. Perhaps most impressive is his K/9 ratio: 7.29. He is a solid source for strikeouts from a starting pitcher. Consider how valuable he might be if he didn’t pitch for the Bucs. He’s had five no-decisions this year where he’s pitched into the 6th or 7th inning allowing 2 earned runs or less. Quite frankly his bullpen sucks up to Matt Capps and, other than Jason Bay, so does Snell’s offensive support (no, that Adam LaRoche trade hasn’t quite worked out). Imagine if Oliver Perez would have stayed and figured things out. That would have been a nasty 1-2-3 (Tom Gorzellany being the third pitcher). For the optimist there’s this, the Pirates play in the N.L. Central, which is the worst division in MLB. So, who knows, right? If the Cardinals can do it…
Honorable Mentions: Jeremy Guthrie, Joe Blanton, James Shields, Chad Gaudin, Tom Gorzellany
RELIEF PITCHER: Jose Valverde (33.1 IPs-26SVs-37Ks-2.70ERA-1.08WHIP)
This was another difficult decision. There really are a number of good picks here. Valverde is my pick due to his stability as a closer thus far, and the sheer bulk of his saves. After all, this is what fantasy managers look for in a reliever. Though a Pat Neshek or Hideki Okajima may be more valuable in real baseball, Joe Borowski, and Todd Jones are more valuable in fantasy baseball. This is also what makes VORP less applicable for the relief pitcher on my all-star team. In choosing, I asked, what closer got managers the most saves, and had the most job security in the first half, without devastating the other pitching categories, for a bargain basement price? Jose Valverde is your man, narrowly edging out Al Reyes due to his recent struggles and placement on the DL.
Honorable Mention: Dave Weathers
One more thing, the statistics and rankings in this post are based on games played through July 4th.