Thursday, May 7, 2009

Round Table Discussion: Who's Hot, Who's Not

Welcome to the first installment to another former SJ column, the Round Table. In these articles a group of SportsJudge writers (with the occasional guest writer) will contribute their thoughts on a fantasy relevant discussion (or other sports related topic). Each will give their opinions concerning the round table subject while commenting on all previous opinions. As with all SportsJudge content, please feel free to give your opinions and ask questions.

Our first topic this year will have to do with fantasy baseball. There are many players that have shot out of the gates and had an incredible month of April, while perennial All-Stars have been hurting your squads early in this long season. The SJ Team will go over which breakouts they feel will keep their shine or lose their luster, as well as discuss what players will break out of their slump or you should trade away before they become too much of a burden.

Kevin Fenstermacher: The first player I want to talk about this year that has been off to an unbelievable start is Zach Greinke. Greinke was a recent topic in Rob Burckhard’s “First to Third” article about how he came back from psychological issues. He always had the talent and he is finally putting it all together and much more. His insanely miniscule ERA is obviously not going to stay that low all year, but you can expect him to continue to be one of the most dominant pitchers in the game. Coming into the season I had Greinke ranked in my top 15 SP’s and in turn have him in 3 of my 4 leagues (the league I don’t have him I decided to keep Edinson Volquez over him as my 10th and final keeper…) and I’m reaping the rewards so far. If you looked at his numbers last season he put together a very good season and now with a better team around him and another year of development and some confidence, which may be the biggest factor, Greinke has turned into an elite pitcher.

On the other hand there a few veteran pitchers whose numbers are a little too good compared to their career trends. A pair of former Phillies pitchers, Kyle Lohse and Kevin Millwood, I feel are two players that you will see a sharp decline over the next few months. Now, I know you probably aren’t relying on these guys to put up ace-like numbers and I’m sure they aren’t the anchor of your pitching staff. But, be sure that you don’t overestimate their ability and trade away one of your top pitchers banking on them to put up similar numbers. Millwood’s ERA has been above 5 in each of the past two years in Texas and Lohse’s low K/9 scares me and I think will lead him to occasional trouble.

Chris Carmona: I like Grienke but one person that I see on a daily basis that has jumped out to a hot start is Michael Young. I got some grief for taking him in our league but his numbers thus far, +.310 and 7 HR. Young hit just 22 HR his last 2 years and is 4 seasons removed from his career high of 24 HR in 2005. The emergence of Nelson Cruz as a fulltime starter and Andruw Jones back to form, Michael Young will continue to climb this season. He has made a smooth transition to third base defensively and we all know that the ball flies further in the hot summer in Arlington. The Rangers are near the top of the league in HR hit and in stolen bases. It’s not hard to see Young going 20-20 this year.

I’ll disagree with your statement about Millwood. The guy is comfortable in Texas and he is in a contract year. The Rangers have a $10 million option for next year and this guy wants to be paid. I expect Millwood to get run support all year long so a 3.50 ERA, while not the best, will be enough to get him 15 wins this year. He has a 2.13 ERA now. The AL seems to be a bit down this year with power so Millwood will be a great starter for any fantasy team all year long. His 22:8 strikeout:walk ratio in 38 innings is very good too. Millwood hasn’t had a year in Texas under 4.57 ERA but I think he can keep it at <4.00>

I don’t see Raul Ibanez keeping it up all year. He is currently the 6th ranked player on Yahoo! Fantasy Baseball. Sure he has a great cast around him this year in Philadelphia but in 8 full seasons, Ibanez has hit over .300 just once. He will be turning 37 this year so he is passed his prime but his OPS of 1.157 is near the top in the league. I can’t see this going on much longer so I’d trade him for as much as you can get for him.

How about those getting off to a slow start? There is Jose Reyes, who usually doesn’t start slumping until September, sorry Mets fans, but now he only has 9 runs scored and 4 stolen bases. Reyes will pick it up and finish with 50 SB and 100+ runs.

I also expect Mark Teixeira to step his game up for the rest of the year. This is tough though because the fans and media will jump on him even more if things don’t turn around fast. Teixeira has always started slowly and this year is no different. This is his 4th team in the last 3 years so I don’t think we have seen the full potential of Teixeira yet. Get him cheap in your league if you can, the future is bright.

Mike Colligan: I totally agree with your opinion there. Teixeira is a proven hitter and that’s the reason he was in such demand at the trade deadline and in free agency. With the Arod circus due into town any day now, that will not only draw the attention away from his terrible start, but it’ll be a huge boost to that Yankees lineup.

Kevin Fenstermacher: Not only that, but Teixeira is traditionally a slow starter and if you are an owner of Teixeira for a few seasons you should be used to this by now. He is one of the most complete players in the game and will find his bat sooner or later. I can only imagine the numbers he will put up once his bat heats up with the weather while sitting in the middle of that potent lineup.

Brian Doyle: While Zach Greinke is the feel good story of the season so far, I’m going to go ahead and steer everything in another direction. There’s one position in particular where the top tier of players have underperformed or been unable to perform due to injury: catcher. Among the top tier catchers, Russell Martin has been off to a slow start, hitting .224 with no home runs, but still maintains a solid 12 RBI batting towards the end of the Dodgers potent lineup. Meanwhile, Geovany Soto is hitting .158, has an OBP under .300, and has just 3 RBI. Joe Mauer spent the first five weeks of the season on the DL with back problems, and has been the exception to the rule with struggling catchers, starting his season off 7 for 10 with and has already matched Soto’s RBI output (and almost his hit total, Soto has 9 so far this year). Atlanta’s Brian McCann, suffering from an infected eye, is also on the DL after starting the season hitting .195.

It doesn’t get much better below the first tier of catchers. Highly touted Baltimore prospect Matt Wieters didn’t even get the chance to start the season in the Bigs and has been hampered with a bad hamstring since landing with Triple-A Norfolk, where he’s hitting .259. Chris Ianetta, after a solid performance in the WBC has struggled to a .173, with 4 of his 9 hits being homeruns.

Mike Colligan: You could even look as far as Pablo Sandoval. While not exactly a catcher, he was the sexy pick on draft day this spring in Yahoo! Sports leagues as a result of his catcher eligibility. In most leagues I’m involved in I’ve seen him available at some point this season. He was such a hyped prospect that you knew it’d be difficult to live up to the hype but if you can plug this guy in at catcher you’re going to reap the rewards as he continues to find his stroke.

Brian Doyle: On the flip side, Victor Martinez is back to his old self with a .461 OBP, 5 homeruns and 13 RBI. Meanwhile Brandon Inge has come out to a hot start, already with 8 home runs, 19 RBI and an Austin .316 batting average. Just keep in mind that he’s a 31 year-old .239 career hitter who averages about 10 home runs a season (his high was 27 a few years ago, which appears to be an…anomaly). I say sell high and sell now. Shop him to the guy who scooped up Emilio Bonifacio back in the first week of the season while you still can. Old-timer Jorge Posada is also off to a solid start, which proves that purposefully peeing on your hands isn’t just puerile, it’s productive too.

Kevin Fenstermacher: Inge has been off to a great start and is sitting in another quality lineup. I don’t expect these numbers all season, but I don’t expect him to drop down to his career numbers. As with Greinke getting over his psychological issues that we have mentioned before, Inge no longer has to focus on catching. There is a lot that goes into calling a game and the fact that Inge is finally able to concentrate on one position instead of bringing a truckload of different gloves is going to help him at the plate. Not having to call a game and work with pitchers will turn into more production at the plate. Having an identity is a sometimes underrated factor for a player.

Brian Doyle: From an offensive standpoint, Kevin Youkilis surprises me, even though I guess he shouldn’t. They say never judge a book by its cover…but look at him. Does he look like he should be hitting over .400? No, not at all. In fact, throw some red plaid flannel on him and he’s the bad guy from this tragedy ( Plus, he drives a Touareg. I couldn’t make that up, he really does.

Kevin Fenstermacher: Speaking of Boston, another player who hasn’t shown his bat at all this year is Big Papi, David Ortiz. Still without a homer to this point in the season, is it even right to still call him by that name? His bat has disappeared and left a hole in the middle of the Red Sox lineup. The Sox will need him to become the player he was before all of his injury issues and provide the left handed power bat they need, but I think his days of being one of the most feared hitters are over. I think a slip down into mediocrity is what Ortiz owners should expect from now on. He will still hit for decent power, but by what I have seen from him thus far it is hard to see him as a premier power hitter in the game anymore. If you can still get good value for him from a diehard Sox fan, pull the trigger.

Mike Colligan: This is a more difficult one to decipher. I think I agree that he’ll never have the power he once had, as long as he’s in the meat of the Red Sox lineup, how can you really argue against owning Big Papi on your team? He doesn’t have a homer yet, but his numbers aren’t as bad as some of the previously mentioned players, and with so many deadly hitters around him, it’s only a matter of time until he breaks out in a big way I think.

There is a quick look at some of the players that are off to some surprising starts this year. Thanks for checking in with our first Round Table for this baseball season. We look forward to bringing you more coverage and arguing with each other over various topics for the next several months. Please feel free to chime in and give you opinion as well. Tell us what you think.

BallHype: hype it up!

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