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FPM Articles
Rate My Team :: Volume 5
by Surge
Published: April 27, 2008, 8:00 pm

Fantasy Playmakers has a roster management message forum available for members to post their team to get several opinions on the team's talent and how to improve their squad for a championship run. I'll be doing the same thing but with a lot more depth and substance. My goal is to give as much advice as possible this season to teams hoping to take home their league trophies. Everything stated unless otherwise noted is obviously an opinion (pretty much everything that isn't a number), and everybody has one. So don't look at me as anything more than one commenter among many who could tell you how to adjust your roster and fiddle with the waiver wire. Remember, these articles are rather in-depth, so I won't be able to handle more than two or three teams a week, and it's first-come, first-served. Take a look at my grading criteria. Details are at the bottom on how to get in touch with me.

League Type: H2H points
Number of teams: 10
Stat Categories:

Scoring for Batting Categories
1B - Singles 1 point
2B - Doubles 2 points
3B - Triples 3 points
BB - Walks (Batters) 1 point
CS - Caught Stealing -.5 points
GDP - Ground Into Double Plays -.5 points
HR - Home Runs 4 points
KO - Strikeouts (Batter) -.5 points
R - Runs 1 point
RBI - Runs Batted In 1 point
SB - Stolen Bases 2 points
SF - Sacrifice Flies .5 points

Scoring for Pitching Categories
BBI - Walks Issued (Pitchers) -.5 points
BS - Blown Saves -5 points
CG - Complete Games 10 points
ER - Earned Runs -1 point
HA - Hits Allowed -.5 points
INN - Innings 1 point
K - Strikeouts (Pitcher) 1 point
L - Losses -5 points
PKO - Pick Offs 2 points
S - Saves 10 points
SO - Shutouts 10 points
W - Wins 10 points 

Hitters

Infield

C - Varitek, Jason
1B - Gonzalez, Adrian
2B - Uggla, Dan
2B - Hudson, Orlando

I feel Jason Varitek will not be a top 15 catcher by the end of the year. He has hit for some power to start the year, but he's also got a terrible 3/14 BB/K, indicating he's having trouble seeing the plate. Last year wasn't as bad1, but he hit .255 last season, a year after hitting .238. He turned 36 earlier this month, and the power will keep declining. If he hits 12-15 home runs, I will be surprised, but 8-11 with maybe 55 RBI and a .260 average would be more in his range. I think points-wise, he'll finish closer to 20th than 10th in this format. From a vet to a youngster, Adrian Gonzalez was a former no. 1 pick turn bust turn stud for the Padres. He hit 30 home runs last year at age 25, and he is only getting closer to his peak. Batting average took a dip because of a high strikeout rate2, from .304 to .282, but his isolated power3 jumped from .196 to .220. That means he has raw power that should improve entering 2008. Though he'll be hard-pressed for forty homers in Petco, Gonzalez is capable of good doubles totals (46 last year) and great RBI/RS totals batting third in the Pads lineup. The only worry will be the strikeout rate of 17%, but as long as the power continues to improve, he could become a top 6 or 7 1B in this format. Another guy near his peak is Florida second baseman Dan Uggla. Uggla, 28, is all about the power bat. His ISO was .234 last season, and he had a worse BB/K than Adrian Gonzalez in 2007 at 0.41. Uggla should hit doubles (49 last year) and homers (31) but also strike out a ton (167). In his first two years with the Marlins, Uggla has scored 105 and 113 runs. Those are exceptional totals for a second baseman and make him a top ten player at that position. He seems like he'll do well in this format with a low penalty for strikeouts and a high reward for power. While Orlando Hudson provides little to no power, the 30-year old does hit third in the most potent lineup in baseball as of right now. The Diamondbacks struggled so much with run scoring in '07 that they actually reached the playoffs by scoring fewer runs than they allowed. That likely won't be the case this year with their entire outfield raking home runs, Conor Jackson stepping up, and Mark Reynolds' power bat on full display. Even with Hudson struggling, he's batting third and putting up very good RBI (13) and runs (11) totals. Last year, he hit .294 and walked plenty (70) that he could very well be a surprise second baseman in this format. With 10-12 home runs and 10-12 steals, his real value comes in batting third with good BB/K ratios. There's also some triples as he's hit 9 each of the past two seasons. Expect really solid numbers as he settles into what seems to be a strong Diamondbacks group of hitters.

1. 14% BB/9, 28% K/9 last season, highest walk and strikeout rates of his career
2. 140 strikeouts, 21.7% K rate
3. From athomeplate.com: Isolated Power is a sabermetric statistic that attempts to describe a hitter's overall effectiveness by measuring his ability to generate extra base hits. ISO was apparently created by baseball great Branch Rickey in the 1950's (along with Allan Roth, they apparently created the idea, though they termed it “Power Average”). ISO is figured by the simple equation: ISO = Slugging % - Batting Average

3B - Cabrera, Miguel
SS - Tulowitzki, Troy
SS - Guzman, Christian

Miguel Cabrera can hit. We know this. Everyone knows this. That's why the Tigers traded for him. They've decided to move him to third base, however, because the kid can't field. Still, he'll have third base eligibility so all is good in the fantasy world. Despite the team's struggles, Cabrera has four bombs, 15 RBI and a 10/15 BB/K. After A-Rod and Wright,  Cabrera's by himself as the no. 3 third baseman and will once again hit .320+, slug .560+ and knock in 110+ RBI or even more. It should be a great year for him and the Tigers when everything is back on track. Someone trying to just find the track is Troy Tulowitzki4. While some are quick to yell out sophomore slump, Tulo has only played three years of baseball since getting drafted from Long Beach College. He hit .286 in his short stay in the minors (517 at-bats), and he then .284 in his one and half seasons in the Bigs. Unless there's an injury, the poor start is bad luck. He does strike out over 20%, but this year he's at 18.8%. His groundout rate has gone from 42% to 45%, but that isn't a big whoop as of yet. Everything really seems the same as last year, skills-wise, but the production is pathetic. It's so pathetic that Clint Barmes has come back and taken over a couple times for Tulo. Tulo's glove will keep him on the field, but Clint Hurdle may knock him down a few spots in the lineup until he gets some hits. However, he should be a top 5 SS and perhaps fourth behind the elite three. Don't get caught up in the early slump and worry about dealing him before June comes around, he'll be fine. When he does get back on track, expect those strikeouts but also power. He had 62 extra-base hits and nearly a 100 RBI/RS season in his first year with the Rockies. As long as Hurdle doesn't give up on him – and why should he after his production in '07 – Tulo will be back to normal.  At just 23, there's plenty of time to find his way back to when he was 22. Cristian Guzman was once 22, but that was almost a decade ago. The oft-injured Nats shortstop, known for his propensity for triples5, came back from a 2006 season-ending shoulder injury to bat .328 / .380 / .466 in 46 games with 31 RS. A torn thumb ligament then ended 2008. This year, Guzman once again has been dug up from the dead with a .303 average and 14 RS for the Nats in 20 games. Guzman's been a low-strikeout type (career 15% K rate) with low power (.116 career ISO). But this year and last his slugging has gone above .460 (.466 and .483 this year). He's on pace for about 50 doubles, but expect closer to his career average of 25. I hope Guzman can keep this pace after all the injuries, but as a career .260-hitter, he's an adequate backup who can fill in for a struggling Tulo every now and then.  Maybe Washington has rejuvenated him after hitting .219 his first year with the big contract, but we know what he is. I don't see a breakout year at 30, but a solid season where he earns a backup bid on this team is pretty good.

4. .163 / .239 / .238, no home runs, 7 RBI, 7 RS
5. 20 triples in 2000, 75 career triples to 47 home runs

Outfield

Lee, Carlos N.
Granderson, Curtis
Matsui, Hideki
Sheffield, Gary

Carlos Lee can hit. Just like Cabrera, there's no point in covering the details. El Caballo will hit doubles, homers, bat .300 and strike out only 70-80 times. Add in plenty of walks and even ten steals and we got ourselves a top 10 OF. In this format, his value might be better. Another guy with great value assuming he comes back 100% is Curtis Granderson. Though his right hand is still injured, last year Granderson dominated. He had doubles (38), triples (23), homers (23) and steals (26) with a .302 average and 122 runs scored. An injured hand will certainly affect his batting, but the 27-year old is at the hitter's peak age meaning last year could be the beginning of a big year this season. In that loaded  Tigers lineup, he might rack up 120 runs even if he doesn't play in April. But his power is legit6, and Granderson will have little trouble posting enough doubles, triples and homers to make him a top 15 OF from the point he returns to the end of the year. One caveat for Granderson is he doesn't walk a lot (52 times in '07) while striking out a little too much (141). But that's nit-picking when a guy can have a season compared to Willie Mays. Another pretty sweet swinger is Hideki Matsui. Avoiding slumps with a very, very strong swing and great eye-hand coordination, Matsui will strike out and walk around 75 times each. He'll hit near or even over .300 (currently .328), and the Yanks lineup allows for loaded RBI and RS. His 57 XBH last year were the lowest in a full season since he came to America, and the 33-year old will turn 34 in June. Those are small concerns as he will likely hit 25 homers and put up great numbers in this format thanks to his contact abilities. Speaking of an aging player, 39-year old Gary Sheffield came through with a good 2007 campaign with the Tigers. Perhaps trying to stick it to his old team, the former Yank not only hit 25 home runs but stole 22 bases. He walked 84 times versus 71 strikeouts, and that's been a theme of his career, but age may have played a part in that contact not turning into a high batting average (.265). Right now, Sheff's batting .192 with 10 strikeouts in 52 at-bats, but the Tigers DH is a solid no. 4 OF. With that wicked built-up swing of his, Sheff should hit 20+ home runs assuming he stays healthy at this age. Another 100-run season would be asking too much, but 80+ RS would be acceptable. The low strikeouts really help out in this format once again, and the steals are just an added bonus. Let's hope he finds his bat just like Tulo because with those two bombing, your team would look a lot better than it does right now.

6. .222 ISO in 2006, 37% XBH in the minors

Dye, Jermaine
Willingham, Josh
Cabrera, Melky

One guy not struggling much if at all is Jermaine Dye. He's batting .333, 60 points above his career average while ten of his 13 hits have been for extra bases. He had 62 XBH last season – a year after a 44-homer campaign – but he hit just .254. He doesn't walk a lot (45 in '07) but he doesn't strike out so much that it will hurt (107). Dye has grounded into 15+ double plays each of the past four years, but that's a minor concern since that will remove only half a point every couple weeks on average. He had just 78 RBI last year, 42 fewer than 2006, but a 34-year old is expected to decline. Right now, this year seems like luck more than skill because his groundball rate is at 42% with a flyball rate of 26%. Expect everything to fall down a bit, but if the flyballs do increase, expect 20-25 homers once again from the White Sox slugger. He's still a good no. 5 OF. Another hitter having a strong April is Josh Willingham. The catcher-turn-outfielder has five homers while hitting at a .311 clip. He has posted strikeout rates over 20%, so that .311 average should fall to the .270 or .280 range at best, and with the Marlins lineup, keeping on finding RBI and RS will be difficult. His power's a bit overrated (.198 ISO) but he can steal a few bases (8 in '07). At 29, he is what he is. Expecting more than 20-25 homers with a .265-.275 average would be stupid. Yes, the fast start looks great, but he's only a bench player in fantasy leagues. Melky Cabrera is an all right outfielder. He's a 10/10 guy with a .275+ average and low strikeout totals. Power's pretty much absent in his game, but Cabrera has blasted three home runs in '08. The 23-year old could be improving toward a really good '08 season, but it seems like he's started with fireworks and the cool-down effect will start taking place as the smoke clears. Aside from the three homers, Cabrera has one extra-base hit out of 17 total, so the power's more luck than true ability. He's a guy who won't hurt you, and with a loaded Yanks lineup, he could near 75 RBI/RS if he gets 500+ at bats again. Expecting a breakout year is being too optimistic. I don't think Cabrera has 30/30 potential, but he may be a future 20/20 type, but that's closer to his peak than right now.

The infield has two top-5 guys, and the outfield contains two top-15 ones. Matsui and AGone are stud hitters. Uggla is your weakest starter outside Varitek, but he is still top ten at his position. Sheff's age and decline is a concern, but last year was amazing enough to warrant a utility spot. There are good fillers like Dye, Hudson, Guzman around; they're veterans who can come in when a starter's hurt or missing everything at the dish. Varitek, Willingham and Cabrera are the weakest, but only one's starting for you. But Tek's been doing a solid job yet far, so stick with him while he's batting well. Right now, the offense seems average for a 10-teamer. Normally, the OF should be really strong, and though it's nothing to laugh at, it isn't elite enough to carry a team with a good-but-not-great group of infielders. Tulo's struggles will subside, and you do have top tens everywhere else, but I feel another top bat would put this team in the elite group. Right now, you're only one player short from dominating.

Grade: B+.

Pitching

Starters

Haren, Dan
Matsuzaka, Daisuke
Young, Chris R
McGowan, Dustin

Haren's a top 12-15 pitcher. We all know he'll eat innings – 217+ each of the past three seasons – and that he'll strike out batters at will (192 last year). The reason I refuse to move him to the top ten despite the trade to the NL is Haren's ERA last year was mostly luck. Though he is 27 and nearing his peak, I still don't see an ERA under 3.50 for him this season. That said, he makes a fine #2 who could be an ace now in the NL. But I'm tempering high expectations. Someone else with high expectations after signing a huge deal in 2007 was Dice-K. I've mentioned the strikeouts (200) with durability throughout his career in Japan7. So expect strikeouts and innings, and though ERA will be a bit high, he wins plenty of games to combat it. Another worry is walks as Dice-K threw 80 in '07. He's thrown 17 in 28.2 innings this year (5.34 BB/9) which is terrible, but his ERA (3.14) has not seen the impact of his wildness. Expect that to change if he continues to allow free passes. A man ten inches taller than Dice-K is your next starter, Chris Young.  Like Dice-K, he's had walks issues (6.23 BB/9) and has put up a correspondingly high 4.57 ERA. However, Young, who has pitched 170-180 innings the past two seasons for the Pads, should lower that walk rate to his career level of 3.3. As the Padres no. 2, Young's been consistent the past two years with the only major change being homers allowed dropping from 28 in '06 to 10 in '07. The flyballer will have a tough time repeating a 4.1% HR/FB ratio, but even if he allows 20 home runs, plenty should be of the solo variety. Last year's first half was ridiculous8, but his second half9 was just flat out ugly. That's a bad sign for the following season, but Young was DL'ed last year with a strained oblique in July and struggled ever since. If healthy, Young's a top 20 pitcher joining Dice-K and Haren. Another guy putting up excellent strikeout numbers is Dustin McGowan. The fireballer threw 144 strikeouts in 169.2 innings last season and 29 more in 22 triple-A innings. His ERA of 4.08 was a little bad luck as McGowan seems like a hell of a groundballer (53%) combined with good strikeout totals. He's certainly not a Brandon Webb, but with a 96 MPH fastball, McGowan should be sub-4 this season. The only problem is his location, which does need improvement. Thus far, 2008 has been a success – 24 innings, 17/9 K/BB, 3.38 ERA, HRA, 1.54 WHIP – but he could be doing better. His other pitches, the curve, split and slider very often find the strike zone, so we'll see how the 26-year old does in 2008.

7. Twice in eight years did he not reach 167 innings. Twice pitched 215+ innings including a career-high 240 in 2001
8. 102.1 innings, 8-3, 99/36 K/BB, 74 HA, 3 HRA, 2.00 ERA
9. 69.1 IP, 1-5, 68/36 K/BB, 44 HA, 7 HRA, 4.80 ERA

Billingsley, Chad
Bannister, Brian.
Marcum, Shaun
Floyd, Gavin
Saunders, Joe

 Chad Billingsley should also be a solid pitcher in 2008. However, 2008 has been extremely unkind. Despite 20 strikeouts in 14.2 innings, Bills has yielded eleven free passes and hit two other batters. 18 hits in 14.2 innings means his stuff has been there for the picking in the strike zone. But skill-wise, his numbers are not that bad. Ten of his eleven overall runs allowed have come in just 2.1 innings of work. Consistency needs to improve, but Bills skills clearly show he'll strike out batters1 while walks remain a concern. I expect he'll put it together like last year's second half2, a good sign of things to come from the 23-year old. With three excellent starts to begin '08, Bannister had nowhere near the problems of Billingsley. The USC grad with a five-year long minor-league resume3 has put up a 3-1 record with the Royals of all teams behind a 2.46 ERA and a 14/6 K/BB. The 27-year old, an avid fan of statistics who uses the numbers to his advantage, will put up solid numbers in 2008. Though his stuff doesn't lend to ridiculous strike out totals, if he pitches 6+ innings a start, 3-4 strike outs a night isn't going to kill you. Bannister had only a 4.2 K/9 last season, but the minor league numbers below portend to finer pastures ahead. Right now, ride his hot streak. Like most of your pitchers, I've mentioned Shaun Marcum before. I suggest go reading the previous article for an in-depth look, but expect home runs as his main kryptonite, so though his ERA will balloon to over four, I still foresee strikeout totals reminiscent of the minors4. Speaking of excellent minor league numbers, how about my boy Gavin Floyd5? The former top prospect in the Phils system has struggled mightily in the Majors. But at 25, he's got some time to turn it around. With a 90 MPH fastball contrasted with an 83 MPH slider and 78 MPH curve, Floyd has the stuff to be the star people expected him to become. Though he has just ten strikeouts in 19 innings in 2008, Floyd's sporting a 1.40 ERA, and that includes two wins over Detroit as he's 3-0 this season. The K/BB is troubling at 10/8, and the luck will run out if his FB rate (53%) stays there, but Floyd has the stuff to be a major leaguer. The question in Philly was always his head – like it is with most of our pitchers. Right now, Floyd deserves an opportunity based on minor league numbers, but in a 10-teamer, dropping him when he stinks won't be a decision I'd question. Finally, there's Joe Saunders. The lefty with a 90 MPH fastball is among the top prospects in the Angels system. Entering '08, his major league numbers6 haven't been terrible, and he's got a 2.15 ERA with a 12/6 K/BB in 29 innings this year. The strikeouts must improve because he's allowing way too much contact to be safe, but his groundball rate is at 50%. However, his flyball rate is hovering around 40%, so they kind of cancel out. Saunders couples a 90 MPH fastball with a low 80s changeup, and when those two are working he can get grounders in bunches – such as his 14/5 GB/FB vs. the Twins on April 2nd to start ‘08. Don't expect anything more than what you're getting from the 26-year old in terms of the whiff (5-6 K/9), and that will mean slightly higher ERAs than one would like in this shallower league (4.3+). But with so many roster spots for pitchers and no real need for a reliever, Saunders could be a fine #8 or #9 with Escobar done for the year.

1. 10.22 K/9 in the minors, 8.63 K/9 last year
2. 92.1 innings, 7-5, 83/42 K/BB, 3.12 ERA, 9 HRA, 1.4 WHIP
3. 78 G, 75 starts, 418 IP, 7.86 K/9, 2.48 BB/9, 27 HRA, 1.19 WHIP
4. 91 G, 56 GS, 392 IP, 9 K/9, 1.47 BB/9, 42 HRA, 8.2 H/9
5. 134 G, 129 GS, 7.15 K/9, 3.36 BB/9, 60 HRA, 8.24 H/9, 1.29 WHIP
6. 187.1 IP, 4.71 ERA, 5.96 K/9, 3.22 BB/9, 20 HRA, 10.09 H/9, 1.48 WHIP

Relievers

Hoffman, Trevor

Yeah, he's pretty good. What's he at, 500 saves now? Yeah, all right, I'll take that. However, at 40, Hoffman isn't exactly a spring chicken. The fastball's at 85 MPH, but the change is still at 75 while he combines those with a solid 80 MPH slider. I do think Hoffman falls a bit, but the early 8.22 ERA seems to be a mirage. He'll pick it up at '08 rolls along while pitching 55+ innings and recording 45+ strikeouts. Hoffman hasn't had an ERA over three in over a decade, so this poor start seems just that. It's a start. You'll forget it come June.

I think this team has a really strong top half of the staff. Though I don't feel Haren or Dice-K are top ten pitchers, combine them with Young and you have three elite, top 20 guys. McGowan is a top 40 pitcher to me, so he makes a great no. 4. Before the year, I would have drafted Billingsley in most leagues, but I didn't get the chance in many. However, it seems to be a good thing because he's having some trouble out there. The strikeouts should return, and at 23, the Dodgers know the kid is still improving. After that, Marcum seems to be my lone favorite. Though Bannister has put up solid totals, he's rather average in strikeouts which will hurt if he doesn't rack up victories. Floyd's never been good in the Majors, and Saunders is a no. 5 for a reason. The last three should be fairly inconsistent and tough to judge. Right now, it's a great top half with questionable depth. Hoffman is a top 10 reliever as long as his arm doesn't fall apart. So far, he's struggled, but time will allow him to return to top 10 status.

Grade: A-.

I nitpicked here and there, but this team is only one offensive stud and one solid but not great starter away from a championship. I feel that starter could already be on your team in the form of Bannister, Floyd or Saunders, but those guys are risky. Marcum's a slight question mark, but as long as he strikes people out, I have few worries. The offense, however, needs one more bat to proclaim the top spots. The points system favors hits guys with low strikeouts, so finding someone who meets those requirements would open the title door. Of course, you'll have to deal a top pitcher or someone of similar quality in return, so it's something I wouldn't do until mid-season when you get a better idea of this team's talent. Right now, I'd say you'll finish third or fourth. This team is really good, and I feel one more move is all that separates you from first.

Grade: B+.

GRADING

I've developed a grading style which I'll use to state your team's relative strengths:

  • A... minor improvements necessary, should be first or second (players' health and stupidity pending)
  • B... you'll finish in the top half of your league, and I'll suggest what you should do to improve.
  • C... you'll be in the middle of the pack, may be only good in one area, hitting or pitching, or just a couple categories.
  • D... needs some major overhaul, the team is not well-drafted or well-built and has too many weak spots and players I don't like.
  • F... might want to re-consider this whole fantasy baseball hobby.

 

To contact Surge, send an attachment with your team roster, rules, league size, your own opinions, and possible free agents you are looking at to surge5102002@yahoo.com. You can also PM me with the same info to the username, Surge .

 





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