I’m writing this article in protest – it’s certainly not because I need the money. My editors – I guess in keeping with Fantasy Baseball 101’s mission – won’t let me post my Survivor: Gabon, Earth’s Last Eden fantasy breakdown. Unfortunately (as you cringe), this is not a joke. I play and get killed in Fantasy Survivor every year. I once dominated Fantasy Apprentice (where have you gone Donald?!?) and posted good showings in Fantasy college football (love me some P.J. Hill). Of course I play fantasy football (4 leagues) and fantasy basketball (I won three years in a row, but failed to reach the finals last year).
Notwithstanding all these diverse interests, fantasy baseball remains my true (and first) love. This game or philosophic sporting viewpoint reminds me of Al from Step by Step – bear with me. This seminal program occurred at a decisive time for me: TGIF was still reasonably cool to watch and I was entering my teen years. So, I dedicate this column to Christine Lakin (nope, didn’t have to look it up).
Keeping this in mind, I’m going to run through my initial hitter rankings step-by-step for 2009 h2h 5×5 standard leagues. First I’ll provide a global perspective, then I’ll go position by position and end with SPs and RPs. I separate hitters and pitchers in my rankings because they are wholly different animals. If you don’t know me, I greatly devalue pitchers.
The LIMA strategy was butter to my bread back in the day. I tweaked to include the “I can’t believe Aaron Harang will continue to fall to me in the 8th/9th round,” strategy. This year he went in the 6th/7th and he ended up on none of my teams. We’re grooming James Shields to take over Harang’s role. Pitcher rankings will be forthcoming in a post framed as an ode to Eliza Dushku (don’t tell me you didn’t watch Buffy the Vampire Slayer).
I normally spend my first 8-9 draft picks on hitters. Then I binge on pitchers from 10-17 or so and try to grab sleepers where I think appropriate. I also tend to hate drafting catchers early (so they will be inordinately low on my board). I had Russell Martin in 2007 and Soto this year. If you can get top-flight catcher production in the 18-30 rounds of a draft, you already have a leg up.
The Yankees I’m low on
Yes I hate the Yankees as an entity/demonic societal subgroup, but I’ve been on the record the last few years as loving Damon (#35) and Abreu (#24). I think Derek Jeter (#81 hitter) is overvalued – he had those 34 stolen bases in 2006, but that is the outlier. Since then he has averaged 13 and in 2005 tallied only 14. You know what you’ll get from him 110 runs, 10-15 HRs, 65-75 RBIs and 10-15 SBs. That, my friends, is a poor man’s Michael Young (#68 in the rankings)
Robinson Cano (#106) is a great second half hitter (.280 versus .327 lifetime). Unfortunately he started this season well below that career .280 at .246. Clearly, he has been useful in the second half of every season he’s played and he has some upside, but don’t pay for pinstripes or someone who can cripple your BA. Also, I don’t know if you can count on him producing a ton of runs, HRs or RBIs, especially if he continues to hit in the 7-9 spots in the lineup.
I loved Carlos Guillen (#157) in 2004 – he brought me my first h2h title (of course that was a league on ‘roids – we used doubles, triples, CGs, no-nos, etc.). I actually traded Kevin Millwood for Miguel Cabrera and Troy Percival in that league, but I digress. In the last four years, Carlos has averaged 91.5 games played. I was offered AROD and Guillen for Jose Reyes in a league this year. I turned it down saying I valued Reyes over AROD (which I do) and that Guillen was waiver wire fodder. I was quickly rebuffed. Well, by the end of the year, Guillen was with the other losers at the high school dance – unclaimed and alone.
Speaking of Miguel Cabrera (#18)…outside of the first year, I haven’t been his biggest fan. I had him in the low-twenties last year, while he was a consensus top 12 pick or so. He is young and reliable, although not quite at the AROD/Pujols level in my mind (obviously given my rankings). He only averaged 88 runs in his last two seasons and provides virtually no stolen bases. Home Runs, RBIs and BA consistency are good, but you can get that in later rounds (Carlos Lee, Abreu, Vlad, Dunn, etc.). I’d much rather grab a multi-dimensional player in the first two rounds or someone who dominates a category or two (Ryan Howard).
Still, the biggest surprise of all: FIVE Nationals made the hitter rankings – I’m as dumbstruck as you.
On to the Christine Lakin squad (those I love more than anyone else does):
Grady Sizemore (#2): a lot has been written about him. He is great and should be MVP. I’ve ranked him in the top 12 the last two years. He provides two of the more statistically important categories: HRs and SBs. In h2h, those categories get the least amount of weekly points, so accumulating them is helpful. The runs will be there next year in Cleveland (they cant be this bad). I’m not worried about his BA decline as his Ks have also gone down – it’ll adjust. If I get a top 5 pick, I’m trading down and taking Grady and recouping a ton of value when the draft slithers back in the second round. In short, I wish I were one of Grady’s ladies.
Let me introduce you to Ian Kinsler (#15), second rounder. Apparently I have an affinity for short haired, kind of goofy looking ball players. People have forgotten that he was a legitimate MVP candidate before going down with an injury. While he may be assuming an injury-prone tag, he only missed 40 games this year and 30 last year. Plus his production for the season – not adjusted for the time he missed – was good enough for top 30 in my book. He also amassed 38 more hits this year than last year in just 35 more at bats. Bumping him up as a Chase Utley clone into the late second round doesn’t seem unreasonable to me. Also, if this global warming thing is true, it’s just going to get more and more humid in Arlington.
The other three surprise candidates all rank in the top 35: Matt Kemp (#21), Jason Bay (#23), and Shane Victorino (#32). Sign me up, I’m a signed, sealed, believer in Matt Kemp. He lowered his strike-outs by 65 in the second half, albeit in 80 fewer at bats. Those fewer at bats didn’t hinder his power, though, as he hit nine home runs both before and after the All Star break. Maybe I’m a little bullish on him by counting on a repeat SB performance, but for a player who might not have reached his full potential, I’d grab him in the second round and be ecstatic.
Jason Bay as a stolen base aficionado is clearly a one-hit wonder (where have you gone 2005?). Since joining the Red Sox, Bay, in 200 less at bats, had only 13 less home runs and remarkably 27 fewer RBIs than with the woeful Pirates. He’s good, he’s out of Pittsburgh, he ain’t a reach in the third round. He’s also anchoring my post-season fantasy team.
Shane Victorino (#32): I dubbed as the 2008 version of the 2007 version of Eric Byrnes. I loved Victorino, especially in relation to where he was going. But by the time it would be prudent to pick him, I had loaded my plate with so many OFs that I had to watch a lucky schmuck grab him and rejoice. Of course, as someone who loves Byrnes, you don’t need to remind me of his regression. Victorino doesn’t have the health issues Byrnes had, plays in a hitter’s park and slots into a delicious line-up. He was a sixth round pick by the Dodgers in 1999 and you should laugh to the championship if you get him around there.
So, how crazy are my h2h rankings? Let me know, post a comment!!!