Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Miranda Warnings: The Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose

Welcome back, baseball fans. It's Michael Miranda, your loyal fantasy baseball expert. Here’s the latest “dose”. Let’s get it on…

American League Update:

A-Rod Remains a Yankee?: Alex Rodriguez, who was all smiles in 2007, made some strong comments about his future status after the Yankees clinched the AL wildcard versus Tampa Bay last Wednesday night."This feels like home. It's hard to believe that I played for another two organizations. So much has happened to me here - adversity, some success - that I feel like anything but New York feels weird for me now," A-Rod told the Yes Network. Rodriguez has bounced back from a “disappointing” 2006 (.290 avg., 35 hr’s, 121 rbi, 15 sb’s, 113 runs) in a very big way. Rodriguez (.314 avg., 54 hr’s, 156 rbi, 24 sb’s, 143 runs!) is the 2007 AL MVP as well as the 2007 fantasy baseball MVP. A-Rod also joined an elite group in 2007. He becomes only the 5th player to hit 50+ hr’s and have 150 rbi in the same season, joining Sammy Sosa, Jimmie Foxx, Hack Wilson and Babe Ruth. A-Rod can opt out of the remaining three years of his contract and become a free agent, which he’ll definitely do. The Yankees and their fans hope that he remains in pinstripes because he is pure gold!

Javy!, Javy!: Wow, what a season for Chicago’s Javy Vazquez. In 32 starts, Vazquez finished 15-8, with a 3.74 ERA, 213 strikeouts and a microscopic 1.143 WHIP. He definitely won’t win the AL Cy Young, but he definitely deserves to be in the Cy Young conversation and should get a few votes. Don’t forget about Javy in 2008.

Cy for C.C.?: Speaking of AL Cy Young, Cleveland’s C.C. Sabathia has made a strong case for the award with his 2007 numbers (19-7, 3.21 ERA, 209 strikeouts, 1.147 WHIP). However, Sabathia’s faces stiff competition. Teammate Fausto Carmona, Boston’s Josh Beckett, LA’s John Lackey, the Yankees Chien-Ming Wang and Minnesota’s Johan Santana have all had stellar seasons.

BJ Lives Up to Huge Expectations: Tampa Bay’s mega prospect, BJ Upton lived up to the hype in 2007. Upton became the first Devil Ray to compile 20 homers and 20 steals in the same season. Additionally, he qualifies at 2b, 3b and OF! At only 23 years old, Upton’s best years are ahead of him.

Carlos a Pen(a) for Pitchers: Speaking of the D’Rays… Carlos Pena is the AL Comeback Player of the Year and deservedly so. Pena’s 46 homers rank him behind only A-Rod and Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder for the major league lead. His other numbers aren’t too shabby either (.282 avg., 121 rbi, 99 runs). If anyone says that they saw this coming, they are flat-out lying. Every season, without fail, there are players that fall through the cracks on draft day. In 2007, Carlos Pena was one of those players. Can Pena duplicate his 2007 success next season? That will be a key question heading into 2008.

The “Big Hurt” Still Solid: As we wait for the demise of Toronto’s Frank Thomas, he just keeps producing and proving everyone wrong. Thomas’ 2007 (.277 avg, 26 hr’s, 95 rbi) tells us that he is still a solid fantasy contributor. If you need a DH/utility player toward the latter portion of your 2008 draft, consider Thomas.

Oh, Danny Boy!: Every year we hear that Baltimore’s Daniel Cabrera’s will show signs of improvement and become the stud that many have predicted. Will the improvement ever happen? For the third straight season, Cabrera has regressed, with 2007 being his worst season yet! Cabrera finishes the season 9-18, with a ghastly 5.55 ERA and an even more ghastly 1.540 WHIP! Ouch!

Vernon Poised for bounce-back 2008?: Blue Jays outfielder Vernon Wells’ disappointing 2007 has ended on the operating table. Wells had surgery last week on the torn labrum in his left shoulder. In May, Wells crashed into the outfield wall, injuring the shoulder, and hasn’t been the same since. The torn labrum explains his decline (.245 avg., 16 hr’s, 80 rbi). Look for a bounce-back 2008 from Wells. He’s a solid #1 or #2 fantasy outfielder.

Chavez Goes Under the Knife: Speaking of players having surgery, the A’s Eric Chavez had successful surgery on his right shoulder in early September. Chavez, who hit .240 with 15 hr’s and 46 rbi in 2007, has also had back problems for several years and surgery is under consideration during the offseason. If Chavez has back surgery, it’s unlikely that he’ll be fully recovered from both procedures come spring training 2008. Proceed with caution.

Johan Moves On?: Minnesota’s Johan Santana remains dominant, but his success in 2007 has been tempered. Why? Santana surrendered a major-league leading 33 homers! By the way, Santana is signed through the 2008 season, but he has made it clear that if the club hopes to keep him after next year, they must begin negotiations asap. If/when he becomes available, look for the Twins to receive as many as two established major leaguers who will contribute immediately, along with a few highly regarded prospects.

National League Update:

Wagner in tailspin: It doesn’t get uglier than it did for the Mets last week versus the Nationals and the Marlins. Playing for their playoff lives, the Mets were swept at home by the Nats, arguably the worst team in baseball, and lost two of three to the Marlins, including the final game 8-1, which saw the Mets not only blow the NL East to the fightin’ Phils, but miss the 2007 playoffs! Ugh! How bad was the Mets September fade? The Mets lost 12 of their last 17 games! While all facet s of the Mets fell apart down the stretch, the bullpen was the main culprit. In one word, the bullpen was atrocious, posting a 5.30 ERA in its last 48 games! Nobody in the Mets bullpen was dependable, including stud closer Billy Wagner. Since being diagnosed with a tired arm in mid-August, Wagner saw his ERA climb from 1.64 to 2.63! Despite the downslide, Wagner remains a solid closer option heading into 2008.

J-Lo and J-Ro: Move over Jennifer Lopez (i.e. J-Lo), another “J” has arrived. Jimmy Rollins monster 2007 season has many talking MVP and deservedly so. J-Ro became the first player in major league history with at least 200 hits, 15 triples, 25 homers and 25 steals in one season. Rollins’ numbers (.296 avg., 30 hr’s, 94 rbi’s, 139 runs, 41 sb’s) would be impressive if he was an OF, but as a SS he is nothing short of a stud. Rollins is a 1st round pick in seasonal drafts heading into 2008 and a keeper in keeper leagues.

Gallardo Impressive: Milwaukee’s Yovani Gallardo is an impressive looking rookie. Gallardo finished 9-5, with a 3.67 ERA and 1.272 WHIP. He’s an early round pick in seasonal drafts and a potential keeper in keeper leagues.

“Prince” is King: Speaking of Brewers, Prince Fielder finished 2007 with 50 homers. Fielder led the NL in homers and became the youngest major league player ever to hit 50 home runs in a season. He’s not only a power-hitter as Fielder’s other numbers are also impressive (.288 avg., 119 rbi, 109 runs). Fielder, Gallardo, Ryan Braun, Rickie Weeks and others form a stud core of Milwaukee players. The Brewers and their fans hope that when it’s time to resign these players, the organization puts its best foot forward. Milwaukee hasn’t seen the postseason light since 1982!

Hudson to go on Short Rest?: If Atlanta was still in the playoff hunt this past Sunday, Tim Hudson would’ve taken the mound against the Astros on three days' rest, manager Bobby Cox told Hudson, the Georgia native, had an outstanding 2007 (16-10, 3.33 ERA, 1.221 WHIP). He gives up a lot of hits and isn’t a strikeout pitcher, but Hudson is a solid #3 or #4 pitcher on your fantasy squad heading into 2008.

Andruw Leaving?: Speaking of the Braves, 2007 can’t end soon enough for Andruw Jones. Jones disappointing 2007, arguably his worst season (.222 avg., 26 hr’s, 94 rbi, 83 runs), has come in his free-agent year. The Braves announced yesterday that they won’t resign him and it’ll be interesting to see which clubs show interest. Wherever he plays, look for Jones to have a bounce-back year in 2008.

Bonds Done?: In a recent “Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose”, I commented that San Francisco desperately needs to rebuild and Barry Bonds shouldn’t be part of the rebuilding program as that would stagnate SF’s progress. Days after my comments, San Francisco announced that it would not resign Bonds as they are moving in a different direction. It’ll be interesting to see if any team shows interest in a player who can still definitely hit (.276 avg., 28 hr’s, 66 rbi, 75 runs), but whose body no longer allows him to be an everyday player. Not to mention, he’s become a defensive liability. The Giants need to start a youth movement ASAP and they made the right decision to part ways with Bonds.

Michael Miranda is a fantasy baseball expert and Deputy Commissioner of Madison League Baseball, a privately run league. "Miranda Warnings: The Fantasy Baseball Weekly Dose" appears on Wednesdays in the Blog Section.

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