The NBA season has closed out and fantasy football preparation is still a good week or two away for me. In other words, my life, for the time being, is now 100 percent devoted to fantasy baseball, no ifs, ands, buts or maybes about it. Here are a few of the tidbits floating about my cranium, Iíll hit up each position.
C: Jeff Clement should be picked up in all formats. He didnít play too well in his stint earlier this season with the Mariners but has been tearing up Triple-A since his demotion. He was just called up and will be playing catcher everyday when Seattle plays in NL parks next week, meaning he should quickly gain catcher eligibility if he does not already have that status in your league. The Mariners should give their top prospect plenty of opportunities with nothing else too lose in their miserable 2008 season. He could be a top-10 hitting catcher the rest of the way this season with the ceiling to be top-5.
1B: Carlos Delgado stinks. Heís turning 36 in a week and his career is clearly over the hill. He should only be owned in NL-only or very deep mixed leagues.
2B: Everyone knows Robinson Cano is a second-half player and it seems that owners across the nation have been keeping this in mind and thus are content with his lack of production so far, given that he still carries a 100 percent ownership rate. Would I drop him? No, not yet, but who is to say he is guaranteed to turn on the switch like he has in the past. He has always struggled in April and May but has began to turn things around in June in the past, something he has not yet done in 2008. There are a bunch of lesser owned second basemen that I like a lot, not necessarily quite as much as Cano for the rest of the season, but itís pretty close. Iíve gotten a chance to see a lot of at-bats from the two Alex(e)is (Alexi Casilla and Alexei Ramirez) and have been very impressed by both youngsters. I also like Clint Barmes, who was red-hot at the plate before getting hurt in late May and is due back within the next week.
3B: Sure, I love guys like Lance Berkman, Chase Utley, Josh Hamilton, Chipper Jones, Ryan Braun, Hanley Ramirez and Albert Pujols. Still, if I were in a draft right now and had the No. 1 pick, Iíd take Alex Rodriguez. As incredibly tough as itíd be to give up any of the aforementioned players, Iíd still deal each one individually for A-Rod.
SS: Jose Reyes is a stud, no doubt about it. That has not changed. The one thing Iíd like to note, however, is that part of the value of drafting him this year was that, once you added him to your roster, you literally did not have to worry a bit about stolen bases for the rest of the draft. He was that valuable last year. That is no longer the case with guys like Jacoby Ellsbury, Michael Bourn and Willy Taveras going on mass stolen base binges, seemingly attempting a swipe every time they reach base. Ichiro and Juan Pierre also have more SBs than Reyes at the moment.
OF: J.D. Drew and Milton Bradley have been great so far, but Iíd try to sell high on both of them. Theyíre both very prone to injuries and I just donít see either keeping up the top-tier production. Iíd also deal Jeff Francoeur if someone in your league still thinks he has top-prospect potential. The guy just hasnít been anything special since his outburst when he entered the league in 2005. After the talk of all the muscle he gained heading into 2008 he has been incredibly mediocre, oxymoron and all. I would go after Eric Byrnes if you can. He had been playing hurt all year and should be refreshed with his return from the DL coming soon. Lets not forget the guy hit .286 with 21 HRs and 50 SBs just last year.
SP: John Lackey is unreal, as was evidenced by the way he easily outdueled Johan Santana on Tuesday. Itís debatable whether thereís another starter Iíd rather own at the moment. I also like Derek Lowe, who was let go in a good number of leagues after his rough start. He has put things back together, notching five-straight quality starts, going at least seven innings each time. Two guys I donít love based on their perceived value are Fausto Carmona and Dan Haren. Carmona remains on the DL and while his 3.10 ERA before his injury was respectable, his 1.59 WHIP was not. He had a horrific 38 walks compared to just 23 strikeouts in 58 innings of work. Haren has been the epitome of a first-half player each of the last two seasons. Last season he was the best pitcher in baseball before the All-Star break with a 2.30 ERA and an even 1.00 WHIP, but he struggled after the break, posting a 4.15 ERA to go along with a 1.50 WHIP. In 2006, he had a pre-All-Star break ERA of 3.52 and a WHIP of 1.13, again faltering afterwards with a 4.91 ERA and a 1.31 WHIP.
RP: If youíre starting to think playoffs, now might be the time to deal closers who may not maintain their roles by the end of the season and secure some safer options. These include Brian Fuentes (rumors of being traded, could land in a setup role), Ryan Franklin (Chris Perez looms, Jason Isringhausen is back healthy) and Jon Rauch (Chad Cordero will be back eventually). If youíre looking for a guy who could have high value at the end of the year, Carlos Marmol is a great target. Kerry Wood has been solid but has a well-documented history of arm troubles and Marmol would be the Cubsí unquestioned filler in the ninth if Wood goes down. Even if he isnít closing for the foreseeable future, Marmol is still an excellent source of strikeouts. He currently has an astonishing 63 strikeouts in just 43 innings, nearly 1.5 K/IP. Nobody with a significant amount of innings pitched this season even approaches that rate.
Here are a few more random thoughts that may or may not have to do with fantasy sports...
> I was browsing through some magazines at Borders the other day when a guy wearing a fresh Bulls 3-Peat t-shirt approached me. He noticed that I was wearing a shirt with the No. 21 on the back and the following conversation ensued, no joke.
Him: Number 21, do you like Tim Duncan?
Me: Eh, not particularly, the Spurs are boring, I'm glad the Lakers knocked them out.
Him: Are you serious! He's so good. Are you going to watch the finals game tonight?
Me: Yeah for sure, I'm rooting for the Celtics, kind of wanna' see the Big 3 win it all.
Him: Cool. Did you see the WWE's One Night Stand on Pay-Per-View the other night?
Me: Haha, umm, no, unfortunately I missed it.
Him: What?! It was amazing.
Me: Really? I dunno', I'm not really into that stuff, somebody once told me it was fake.
Him: Are you kidding me? No it's not.
Me: Yeah, maybe they were lying to me, who knows.
Him: It can't be fake, the Undertaker came back from hell twice.
And with that, he left. Seriously, no more or no less was said. All I was left thinking was that, if I heard someone debating that the WWE was real, the fact that the Undertaker has supposedly come back from hell twice would be my counter-argument. Apparently it was quite the opposite for this dude.
> Just a reminder to those in keeper leagues, remember to think about guys that will lose eligibility at certain positions and plan accordingly. Possible keepers that could lose eligibility at certain positions include Carlos Guillen (SS), Ryan Braun (3B), B.J. Upton (2B) and Alex Gordon (1B).
> Much to the chagrin of my parents as well as a large mass of other people around the world, Iím a huge fan of rap music. Lilí Wayneís much anticipated Tha Carter III dropped last week, and I have to say, Iím pretty disappointed. Itís not all that bad overall, but there were no real bangers or standout tracks. Two that I do thoroughly enjoy are Mrs. Officer (ft. Bobby Valentino, prod. by Wyclef Jean) and Let the Beat Build (prod. by Kanye West). For the few of you out there reading this that enjoy the stigmatized genre of rap music, here are my top-5 new tracks.
1) DJ Khaled Ė Out Here Grindiní (ft. Akon, Lilí Wayne & others)
2) 2 Pistols Ė You Know Me (ft. Ray J)
3) Brisco Ė Just Know Dat (ft. Flo Rida)
4) Young Jeezy Ė Put On (ft. Kanye West)
5) Ace Hood Ė Cash Flow (ft. T-Pain & Rick Ross)
> Yes, Iím just 22 year old and havenít had a chance to hear all the greats, but Jeff Van Gundy is quickly becoming my favorite sports journalist, of any sport, of any form of broadcast, period. The guy is pure entertainment. I truly hope he stays with his coverage of the NBA and doesnít go back to coaching. The only way Iíll accept him getting a coaching gig is if HBO decides to make a documentary ala Hard Knocks, except only following the doings of Van Gundy, not the whole team.
Alrighty, that does it for now, let us all pray that Dan Haren, who's pitching against me in three leagues today, experiences his post-All-Star break slumps a little early this year.