Fantasy Baseball: Fact or Fiction

by MastersBall.com on February 16, 2011 @ 10:25:16 PDT

 


2011 Draft Preparation: Miguel Cabrera and Dustin Pedroia are Targets | Jason Mastrodonato

During my annual pre-season draft preparation, my longtime fantasy baseball partner, Tom Saucke, and I sat down for a discussion on middle infielders.

Tom and I go toe-to-toe in several leagues, but we also join together in some, and will be partnering a National Fantasy Baseball Championship squad in 2011. So, we decided to meet once a week via Skype - a truly amazing feature that allows us long-time buddies to virtually hang out via the Internet - and discuss draft strategy.

While our talks eventually moved to the middle infield, which I'll get to shortly, we also touched on our first and second-round plan.

Boston Red Sox 2B Dustin Pedroia
Pedroia: safest call at 2nd, in 2nd

We ultimately decided that, in a 15-team format like the NFBC, some guys that we really like, such as Troy Tulowitzki, Carlos Gonzalez, Alex Rodriguez, Ian Kinsler, and Josh Hamilton, among others, we'd stay away from unless they fell firmly in our laps.

Tulo and A-Rod might turn out to be studs, and at thin positions, but they also possess the bust-factor that could ultimately provide us goose-eggs for large portions of the season.

So, we decided on a few things:

1. If we have the second pick, or any pick thereafter where he is still available, Miguel Cabrera is our guy. Some can make the argument for Hanley Ramirez, or Carl Crawford, or even Tulowitzki, but Cabrera was our hands-down selection.

First of all, Cabrera has shown the ridiculous ability to hit .320 or higher in five of the last six seasons, which is incredible enough.

Second, he's hit 33 homers or more in five of those six seasons, and has stayed completely healthy every year he's been in the big leagues.

And, unlike a lot of players who possess eight-year track records of nothing but success, Cabrera is just 27 years old, and there's a chance he hasn't even touched his prime yet.

With the lineup Detroit has, there's a very real possibility Cabrera could be the No. 1 fantasy player when all is said in done in 2011.

2. While Tom and I will both admit that Roy Halladay and Felix Hernandez will most likely have great seasons that come very close to matching their 2010 outputs, we won't be touching them this year.

If you take a look at the top tier of pitchers heading into the season, there are roughly eight or so guys who could easily be the No. 1-ranked pitcher when all is said and done in 2011. Halladay, Wainwright, Lincecum, Hernandez, Greinke, Lee, Lester, Sabathia… and even Kershaw, Verlander, Johnson and Price are capable of producing No. 1 pitcher statistics.

So why spend a first or second round draft pick on Halladay or Hernandez when we can wait until the fourth or fifth and still pick up a guy who possesses the skills to do the same thing? Sure, the chances of that happening slim a little bit as you go on, but I don't think Felix is really that much better than Lester or Sabathia, and while Price and Verlander have their issues, they can still both win 20 games and fan 230 along the way.

Thus, we decided we do want at least one of the top aces, but we won't be reaching for one, and we'll be sure to load up our hitting to the max first.

Another thing Tom and I talked about was what to do at the middle infield positions.

At shortstop, we do like Tulo, and Jose Reyes, but those are two guys that would have to fall to us at good spots, as we won't be over-spending on the risky infielders.

Instead, we really like the idea of waiting until the middle rounds to take someone like Ian Desmond, who can just as easily collect 15 home runs and 25 steals. And if we miss there, J.J. Hardy could have a solid rebound season with the newly-vamped Orioles' lineup. Remember, Hardy is only 28, and hit 24 home runs two seasons ago with the Brewers.

Even later, we decided we'd have no problem filling that spot with someone like Alcides Escobar, Marco Scutaro, Cliff Pennington, or Ryan Theriot. Other than Scutaro, each of those guys can easily swipe 20 bags and score 60-70 runs, and Scutaro will have an every-day role in a very productive lineup.

At second base, we decided Dustin Pedroia was our target, and no matter where we pick in the second round, the 630 at-bats of .305 batting average from Pedroia was enough to convince us he was more valuable than taking a risk on the upside of A-Rod or Hamilton.

Pedroia doesn't have the most power or the most speed among the top-tier second basemen, but he can do just enough of everything to make him a very productive player. And together, Tom and I are really high on the Red Sox offense.

If we miss on Pedroia, Gordon Beckham is a really nice option around the 15th round or so. At just 24 years old, Beckham screams as a player who was rushed to the majors too quickly, and even as a premature starter in the big leagues, showed the ability to hit for a decent average while hitting a few homers and stealing some bags.

And Beckham's very strong second-half performance last year, 23-6-27-.310 in just 171 at-bats, was a great indicator of what might be to come for the young second baseman. Plus, he'll have no competition for the job, and the White Sox should be a good offense.

The draft won't be for at least another month or so, but so far, Tom and I think we have a good plan heading into it.

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