Monday, March 20, 2006

All Sleeper Team

Every good fantasy player goes into a draft with a list of sleepers in their back pocket. Here's yours:

C Ramon Hernandez - Read my catcher's article below where I openly opine for Ramon's rightful place as a Top 3 fantasy catcher this year. Let the other guys take Pudge, Varitek, and Posada...then take Ramon and sleep well all season.

1B Ryan Howard - First, there was the myth of the Loch Ness Monster. Then, Bigfoot and the Abominable Snowman. Most recently, we've uncovered the "Ryan Howard Can't Hit Lefties" myth. Don't be a sucker...Howard is the real deal.

2B Jorge Cantu - Will fly under the radar of most fantasy players...don't be one of them. Cantu is one of the top 5-7 keystone sackers around right now and has the potential to be even better. He put up great numbers last year, and at age 24, he'll only get better.

3B Chad Tracy - May not start the season with 3B eligibility, but will get it soon. Could be the best hitter no one's heard of (outside of Arizona).

SS Bobby Crosby - ESPN's Harold Reyonlds picked Crosby as this year's AL MVP. I won't go that far, but I do look for Crosby to make the leap from "prospect" to "all-star" this year.

OF Coco Crisp - A move to Fenway will make Coco a 5 category contributor. Don't sleep on him too long...he'll be gone before you know it.

OF Aaron Rowand - Rowand will be loving Citizens Bank Park, and Philly fans will love this guy right back. Boasts a nice power/speed combination.

OF Jeremy Hermida - NL ROY frontrunner. Don't draft him too high...unless you're in a keeper league. This kid is already a good hitter, but his runs and RBI totals will be limited somewhat due to a diluted supporting cast (Miguel Cabrera aside).

SP Jason Schmidt - He's back, and that's great news for the rest of us. Strikes batters out and posts good control numbers in a pitcher's park. He's already a Top 20 starter...he could be a Top 10 hurler by year's end.

SP Brandon Webb - It's easy to forget how good this guy is since he pitches for Arizona. Webb will strike batters out, and his ERA and WHIP will be helpful to your cause as well.

SP Chris Young - Posted a nice season in the Launching Pad at Arlington last year...a move to spacious Petco can only help his numbers.

SP Jeremy Bonderman - Started to put it together last year...this year he'll finish what he started. Calls the cavernous Comerica home, and that only makes his prospects brighter.

SP Oliver Perez - People will shy away due to last year's forgettable performance, but this guy makes a great late round steal for those savvy enough to remember that this kid is young with a very high ceiling.

RP Bobby Jenks - Has a history of inconsistency, but makes a great mid-to-late round steal due to the strikeouts he'll reap from his blazing heat.

RP Mike Gonzalez - The strikeouts are there...this guy could be a Top 10 closer by the All-Star break.

RP Jose Valverde - Will post good control numbers, and should save 30+ games (even as a D-Back).

All-Bust Team

No, I'm not talking about Anna Nicole Smith's gloriously sloppy bazongas...I'm referring to the "other" kind of busts we know all too well. Allow me to warn you about the kind of busts that make you scratch your head three months after draft day and say, "what the hell was I thinking?" Without further ado, here is the 2006 First Team All Bust Squad:

C Jason Kendall - This isn't your father's Jason Kendall. It's the older, slower version that's now worth about as much as a can of creamed corn. Yuck.

1B Jim Thome - A 35+ year old with back problems coming off a nightmarish season? No thanks.

2B Brian Roberts - B-Rob is coming off major surgery to his wheels, and his game is built on speed. He'll bounce back one of these years, but in the meantime, stay away and let someone else overpay.

3B Adrian Beltre - Last year told us that his contract year was a statistical anomaly. Stuck in a pitcher's park, his ceiling is lower than you think.

SS Jose Reyes - All he does is steal bases. But he also has an injury-riddled past, and a hobbled basestealer who doesn't hit for power or average is worth absolutely nothing. Pardon the poor Easter pun, but don't put all of your Stolen Base eggs in this fragile basket.

OF Randy Winn - He's a nice player, but I don't see him hitting more than 12-15 homers in that ballpark. He'll be 32 soon, and take it from someone his own age: he won't be getting any faster with each coming birthday.

OF Moises Alou - It's a nice novelty to have a uy on your team who purposefully pees on his own hands. However, he's 40 years old now...most guys stop that when they're 5 or 6. Mosies is destined for the DL this season.

OF Barry Bonds - If the steroids don't get him, Father Time will. I hear the Giants clubhouse has stocked their soda machine with prune juice and Ensure.

SP Dontrelle Willis - I love Dontrelle, but I don't love the fact that he's got a Double A defense playing behind him. That means bad things for his WHIP and ERA. I'd be happy for Dontrelle if he can put together a win total comparable to last year, but 12-14 W's are much more likely.

SP Kevin Millwood - Citizen's Bank Park showed us just how mediocre he can be in a hitter's ballpark. Millwood just might regret settling down in Arlington.

SP Felix Hernandez - Crazy, you say? Heresy??? Maybe. His inclusion here is just a speculative bet that he's not the next Dwight Gooden (pre-cocaine version) that everyone says he is. At least not yet.

SP Matt Cain - Love the potential, hate the history of erratic control he displayed in the minors. Let someone else overpay, but if he falls to you, don't hesitate to take him.

SP - Jon Garland - Wanna bet he won't match last year's total of 18 wins? Please? Why can't I find anyone to take that bet?? I know...because it's a lock that Garland will come back down to Earth this season. His ERA was a full point lower than his career average, and his WHIP was equally out of character with his past. If you draft Garland expecting better than a 4.00 ERA, a 1.25 WHIP, 110 Ks, and 15 wins, then you're kidding yourself. By the way, those are very generous and optimistic predictions since his 2nd best season totals in those categories are 3.69, 1.37, 12, and 113.

RP Ryan Dempster - I'm still trying to figure out why he's so much better than LaTroy Hawkins or Joe Borowski. Note: Those guys spent no more than a season as the Cubs' closer.

RP Bob Wickman - Learned how to run on fumes from Jose Mesa. Do yourself a favor and pass on this guy. You'll thank me later.

RP Chris Reitsma - His days as the Braves' closer are numbered given that young Joey Devine is en fuego right now.

Coming Soon: All Sleeper Team