|The O-Zone: End-game third basemen
A few days ago, it was 70. Now itís snowing. Ah, March in New Hampshire!
I need to warm up, so letís go to the hot corner. Hereís a quartet of fine end-game picks.
Aybar has a sore wrist and might begin the year on the DL. Once heís back -- and this injury doesnít sound as if it will keep him out long -- expect Aybar to contribute to your fantasy team.
Aybar has a fine batting eye (63/52 K/BB between the minors and majors last year), so he should be able to hit for a decent average. Heís also flashed some power in the minors (10 homers in just 207 at-bats at Triple-A last year), and you could always use a little pop from an infielder.
Of course, ability is nothing without opportunity, but Iíd expect Aybar to get a chance to play at some point. With oft-injured Chipper Jones at third and unproven Kelly Johnson at second, there should be opportunity somewhere along the line.
We all know the drawbacks: lots of Kís, low batting average. But Branyan also has a ton of power -- 18 homers in 241 at-bats last year -- and could see some playing time if Kevin Kouzmanoff struggles at third or the Terrmel Sledge/Jose Cruz tandem fails in left field.
Three good things:
1. Cirillo hit a dandy .319 last year, and his fine 33/21 K/BB proves he can keep his average high (though probably not THAT high).
2. Cirillo is going to start at DH against lefties, and itís not hard to imagine him wresting some third-base at-bats from Nick Punto now and then.
3. In many leagues, he qualifies at second base.
Cirillo wonít hit for any power or steal any bases, but what do you want for a buck?
I donít think highly of Spiezioís skill set or ability, but heís going to get plenty of playing time for a one-dollar player. Between Scott Rolen (shoulder) at third, David Eckstein (always hurt) at short and Adam Kennedy (not very good) at second, there will be opportunity aplenty in the infield. In addition, with Jim Edmonds and Juan Encarnacion starting the year on the DL, Spiezio can pick up some at-bats in the outfield, too.
What he does with those at-bats remains to be seen, but hey, at least heíll be in there.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/16/2007 5:22:00 PM
|The O-Zone: End-game second basemen
Letís move over to second base, as our look at solid end-game picks continues. Donít be afraid to take a chance on these guys:
Belliard is nothing special, and right now he doesnít even have a starting job. Heís still a decent gamble in NL-only leagues, though.
Itís not hard to imagine Belliard landing plenty of playing time. The Nationals are starting Cristian Guzman at shortstop, but that might not last long due to Guzmanís bad shoulder and offensive ineptitude. If the Nationals stick Guzman on the bench at some point, Felipe Lopez will shift from second to short, opening up the second-base spot for Belliard.
Belliard has averaged 14 home runs over the last three years -- not too shabby for a cheap second baseman. Heíll provide plenty of value once he finds his way into the lineup.
Callaspo is a backup in Arizona now, but if he winds up with some playing time, heíll give you a HUGE profit on your $1 investment.
Why? Callaspo can steal bases, his batting eye is worthy of the O-Zone Hall of Fame (27/56 K/BB at Triple-A last year), and heís still getting better at age 23. Great skill set, well worth a buck.
Donít forget about Frandsen on draft day. The Giants infield is ready for the nursing home, so thereís bound to be a spot or two or three where the 24-year-old can pick up some at-bats.
Heís been a bust for so long, itís hard to have much hope. Nevertheless, Matsui can steal a few bases (10 last year in 70 games), and he should display some pop in Coloradoís thin air. Heís got the starting second base job all but wrapped up, too.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/15/2007 2:35:00 PM
|The O-Zone: End-game first basemen
Letís continue our end-game picks series today, shifting over to first base. If youíve got a buck left and need a first-bagger, consider drafting:
Broadway isnít anything special, but he should be a steal for a buck or two. Heís got some power (15 home runs at Triple-A last year) and has maintained a decent batting average throughout his minor-league career. Playing time shouldnít be an issue, as heís the front-runner to start at first while Nick Johnson is out -- which could be all year. Factor in that Broadway is 26 and should be reaching his peak, and you have a nice lilí sleeper.
With Bobby Kielty and Mark Kotsay hurt, Johnson could get more playing time than we envisioned a few months ago. Iíd love to see him get another chance, because Iím not willing to give up on this guy just yet. Johnson had fabulous plate discipline last year (45/40 K/BB), and at age 27, nowís the time for him to shine. Consider Johnson a buck well spent -- at least thereís some potential here.
I know heís 35 and has Dr. James Andrews on speed-dial, but Klesko has the chance to be a minor fantasy contributor. Heís going to get some at-bats at first, and he might still have the skill to do something with them. He might still have the power that allowed him to hit 18 homers two years ago; he might still have the batting eye that resulted in a fine 80/75 K/BB two years ago. Heís a reasonable reserve pick.
Mientkiewicz has less power than Richard Simmons, but thereís some good stuff here, too. He has a good batting eye, heís healthy after off-season back surgery, and he should be able to score and drive in some runs as part of a loaded Yankees lineup.
Walker doesnít have much value, but the Padres are trying to trade him. Spending a buck on Walker now could pay dividends if he finds a larger role elsewhere.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/14/2007 2:27:00 PM
|While some overrate position scarcity, others pay no attention to it. Winning is likely possible with either strategy, but the object of this article is to decide just how to go about dealing with thin positions. First off, letís identify which positions are shallow and which ones are loaded with talent. Obviously, each personís particular league rules have an effect on this, so realize the difference between a 10-team league and a 15-team one.
Outfield Ė Itís top heavy, with numerous sleeper/upside options in the middle tiers. Overall, there are at least 60-70 quality options. Verdict = Deep
1B Ė Not as deep as usual. Surprisingly, first base is one of the thinner positions this year, as after you get through the top-13 options, only players with significant risk remain. Personally, Iím not even enamored with options 8-13 either. A smart owner will use 3B as their corner infield position, waiting to fill that out later on. Verdict = More Shallow than you think
2B Ė While middle infield is typically considered the toughest area to fill out each season, thatís not the case with second this year. Chase Utley separates himself, but there are 15 rock solid options and a handful more that could easily prove capable. Verdict = Deep
SS Ė Thereís a pretty clear-cut top-7, and one or two from that tier have typically been falling as far as the fourth round, making a great value pick. The next tier (8-13) is a solid yet not without risk group. After that, youíre reaching. Verdict = Somewhat Shallow
3B Ė Thereís the big three, and then a clear-cut 2nd tier. Options 7-15 will differ on almost every single cheat sheet, and all come with big reward/risk. Since another 10 options exist as passable CI starters even after that, third base is about as deep as it gets. Donít pigeon hole yourself and take two early, as that blocks your ability to fill it out with value later on. Verdict = Very Deep
Catcher Ė In a two-catcher format, Joe Mauer has been undervalued in most leagues. In those formats, heís worthy of a top-20 pick. In 1-catcher leagues, itís not nearly as big of a deal, since 12 solid options exist. Still, in those 2-C leagues, you better not wait, because options 18-30 are pretty terrible. Remember, production isnít always just production:
Catcher #1 25 HRs
Catcher #2 15 HRs
Outfielder #1 40 HRs
Outfielder #2 35 HRs
In this example, catcher #1 is obviously the first pick, despite hitting 15 fewer HRs than Outfielder #1.
Relief Pitchers Ė Do yourself a favor and wait on the closers run. If youíre drafting for saves before round 5, youíre doing a great disservice to yourself. Not only is the ďsavesĒ category the most volatile and unpredictable category, but about 30 percent of this position wonít finish there at seasonís end. Also, drafting a starting pitcher contributes about 2.5-3 times as much to your team in ERA and WHIP than a RP does, since thatís how many more innings they typically hurl. Verdict Ė Wait, itís deep enough
Starting Pitchers Ė This very much so depends on your league format. If you have a 1250 innings cap, you can probably afford to wait a few rounds before taking a SP. In leagues that allow a bigger innings max, SPs become even more valuable. Remember, in an 1800 innings cap league with 14 starting offensive players, a SP will count for about 1/8 of your pitching stats while an offensive player counts for 1/14. While many sneaky, bottom tier options exist this year, donít miss the boat early on, as plenty of upper echelon hurlers are falling into the middle rounds. Verdict = Not Deep
In summation, going crazy and drafting Chase Utley over Albert Pujols is obviously wrong, but position scarcity is a very real thing and must be accounted for. When drafting, take a look at how many options remain at each position that you would be comfortable with inserting into your starting lineup. If very few remain at SS but plenty do at OF, use that as a determining factor if youíre deciding between Edgar Renteria and Magglio Ordonez, even if you think Mags is going to put up slightly better numbers.
Good position scarcity targets:
Round 1 Ė Chase Utley.
Round 2 Ė Jimmy Rollins, Hanley Ramirez (SBs are a category scarcity) and Joe Mauer (if 2-C league).
Round 3 Ė Derrek Lee
Rounds 4-7 Ė Starting Pitchers. Think Jake Peavy (ADP=46) and John Smoltz (ADP=69).
Later Rounds Ė Fill out relief pitching, outfield and 3B/CI.
Posted by Dalton Del Don at 3/14/2007 11:25:00 AM
|The O-Zone: End-game catchers
Last year, I wrote a column about solid end-game draft choices. I received a lot of feedback telling me how useful it was, so I figured Iíd reprise the column this year in The O-Zone. Weíll take a different position each day, starting with catcher today.
Let me emphasize that these columns are intended for those of you in deeper leagues. Also, let me point out that Iím not predicting superstardom for any of these guys. All Iím saying is if you have a buck and are looking for some upside, these players are reasonable targets.
OK, so Buckís plate discipline stinks Ö and he hits for a low average Ö and he hasnít hit for a ton of power Ö and Jason LaRue is in camp to compete with him. There is considerable downside here.
However, there is some potential as well. Buck is 26 years old, so heís entering his peak years. He also has roughly 1,000 big-league at-bats under his belt, so perhaps heís gained enough experience and is ready to break out.
Spend a Buck on buck. At least there is some upside.
Hall isnít a starter anymore; heís going to back up A.J. Pierzynski in Chicago. Nevertheless, Hall is still worth a buck. Heís going to get some at-bats against lefties, whom he had an .833 OPS against last year. He also should chip in with a few homers, as Chicagoís ballpark treats hitters kindly.
Mathis is coming off a miserable 2006, but thereís still value here. Mathis has some power (21 homers in Triple-A in 2005), and heís only 23. Plus he could see some big-league time if Michael Napoli fails. Considering Napoli hit .164/.303/.320 after the All-Star break last year, that well could happen.
Phillips will receive some at-bats against lefties. He has a career .271/.347/.418 line against them, so he can do a little damage. Phillips also has a modicum of power -- he should give your team a few dingers.
It looks as though Victor Martinez will be staying behind the plate, killing most of Shoppachís value. But donít write Shoppachís epitaph just yet. Heís only 26 years old, so thereís still a future here. Better to grab a young guy like Shoppach who has a chance to succeed than an old vet whoís already proven he doesnít.
Posted by Joe Oberkrieser at 3/13/2007 2:37:00 PM