Burning Fantasy Baseball Questions - NL Central

by Nicholas Minnix on February 2, 2010 @ 03:38:18 PDT


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Chicago Cubs

How much trust can I put in OF Alfonso Soriano?

Soriano's youthful look is becoming more misplaced. He's 34. The power and speed dipped. Injuries are nothing new. Sori had arthroscopic surgery and is rehabbing hard, though. In mixed drafts, you can trust him enough to spend a sixth-round pick and test his resolve.

Now that Carlos Marmol is undoubtedly the closer, why isn't he a more popular pick?

The whimsical nature of fantasy drafts.... People became painfully aware of what KFFL.com was warning readers about: Walks plus flyballs equals trouble. Although it's still great, his dominance rate is declining slowly. The talent is unmistakable, though. In the middle rounds, why not?

After seeing C Geovany Soto's follow-up, was his rookie season a fluke?

Milwaukee Brewers SP Yovani Gallardo
Anatomy 101 eases concerns

The youngster was overvalued last season. The strained left oblique didn't help. Did he have any other nagging injuries? It's possible. The disappointment covered up some batting eye growth. With a little luck and his 20-homer power, he's a nicely discounted No. 1 fantasy backstop.

What happened to Chicago's starting pitching?

Ted Lilly (shoulder) is the Cubs' most coveted starter, and he might miss time. That's insulting to Carlos Zambrano, a former fantasy ace. What if he's getting through the worst of the effects of his initial heavy year-to-year workload? He's working out vigorously. It's very cheap to find out.

Cincinnati Reds

Is Joey Votto a top-notch fantasy first baseman already?

He's going to be good for a long time, but in mixed leagues, it seems premature to draft him as a top-six player at the position and top-30 pick overall. In NL formats, where depth dries up, the risk is more understandable. He's on a bad team and hasn't established himself yet.

Jay Bruce and ... who else, in the outfield?

That's about it. At any time, Chris Dickerson, Wladimir Balentien, Willy Taveras and even Laynce Nix could be relevant in mixed leagues. The skills to sustain relevance? Drew Stubbs, a speedster, may actually have them. As for Bruce, a breakout appears imminent.

Do I have to hear about Johnny Cueto and Homer Bailey again?

Not a fan of slowly emerging sleepers? Cueto dealt with a couple of minor ailments and is adjusting to a big league workload. He didn't pitch winter ball and should be fresh. He won't be terrible and could make a small leap.

Bailey began mixing up his pitches and added a splitter to his repertoire. Result: 6-1 record, 1.70 ERA in his last nine outings. He says he's more dedicated to the game now. Ignore him at the end of your draft, if you like.

Houston Astros

1B Lance Berkman, OF Carlos Lee and SP Roy Oswalt: good value picks?

Could be. Injuries troubled Berkman a little more than usual. He should bounce back a bit. However, be aware that he's 34 entering this season and has displayed negative trends. Lee, also 34 this year, is on a similar slope. They shouldn't be terrible, but they don't come at much of a discount.

Oswalt's back issues were the biggest reason for his 2009 staleness. Of course, that's not comforting news, but the skills still fit his most recent baseline. His midlevel price makes him more attractive.

SP Wandy Rodriguez: next stop, Fantasy Acedom?

It appears so. Witness his outstanding improvement in command as 2009 wore on. But he still hasn't solved his road woes. If Magic Wandy has an Ervin Santana-like growth spurt, we could see Santana-like value in 2010. It also wouldn't be a surprise if he experienced a Santana-like letdown thereafter.

OF Michael Bourn: growth, or luck?

Cincinnati Reds OF Jay Bruce
Glory Days ahead for Bruce

The speedster's liner rate became more streamlined, and the batting eye uptick was welcome. Even then, is his 2009 BABIP (.367) sustainable? Call it a little of both, and remember that one-trick ponies are risky investments, especially in the top 100 picks of mixed drafts.

Better bet for saves: Matt Lindstrom or Brandon Lyon?

If you're at the end of a mixed league sampler, take a gamble on Lindstrom. He throws gas and improved his control in a brief stint following an elbow injury, which he's reportedly well past. In NL leagues, Lyon may be a sounder investment. He'll probably be less costly and has been more stable. Lindstrom is largely unproven.

Milwaukee Brewers

Is SP Yovani Gallardo a risk considering his big jump in innings?

A couple of things work in his favor. After July, Gallardo started a mere nine games and worked more than six innings in a start only once. In addition, Gallardo had torn cartilage in his knee - nothing related to arm trouble. He's not much more of a risk than any other young pitcher.

Have hopes been too high since OF Corey Hart's debut?

His September 2008 collapse was disturbing, and he wasn't superb when he was healthy last year. However, in 2009, Hart endured health issues - an appendectomy and bruised foot among them - not lending to an injury-prone profile. It won't cost you much to see if he's no longer a 20-20 candidate.

Why should I care about 2B Rickie Weeks anymore?

Weeks was on a roll before a wrist injury (again) ended his season. That may zap his power (he hit nine out in 147 at-bats), but in a mixed league, he's a medium-upside MI. In NL games, he's a big risk.

Who's the best of the young bucks - OF Carlos Gomez, SS Alcides Escobar, IF Casey McGehee and 3B Mat Gamel?

Gamel has yet to demonstrate that he's more than a platoon player and batting average liability. On the other hand, McGehee bloomed - late. He's 27, and there a couple of reasons to be skeptical, but he should be NL-serviceable.

There are indications that Escobar could be the 2010 NL version of the 2009 Elvis Andrus. Draft him accordingly, and you may be rewarded. Gomez gets a shot to play every day. His skill set screams inconsistency, so that may help. He's a potential one-trick pony who's cheap.

Pittsburgh Pirates

Does it only get better for OF Andrew McCutchen?

It does, eventually. He's definite star material. McCutchen was raised properly, showed progression at the plate and demonstrated burgeoning power skills. He's on a really bad team, so further delivery will speed up star treatment. He may be prepared to handle that, too, however.

1B Garrett Jones - buy or sell?

The stolen base output was a big surprise. That's saying a lot for a guy who was a surprise at age 28 anyway. He probably won't get much better. More than a fifth of his homers left the yard. PNC Park isn't happy. He should be a source of modest power, but to bank on anything more isn't the smartest move.

Who will close? Do I care?

Chicago Cubs OF Alfonso Soriano
Sori less sore

It may be reliever Joel Hanrahan's job to lose. We've heard this before, but it's not like the Washington Nationals handled him well. The righty's K/9 increased again, but control remains a deterrent. The Bucs are still shopping for non-closing relievers. This has committee scribbled on it.

St. Louis Cardinals

At what point is it safe to draft SP Chris Carpenter?

It's easier to answer this question: When are you comfortable taking a player that you expect to lose? The best approach: Don't make him your No. 1 starter in mixed leagues, but No. 2 is definitely OK. In NL formats, stop before you hit the point where you ask yourself, Do I go the extra buck? Those skills aren't cheap, but they're a lot easier to replace in shallow leagues.

Why hasn't OF Colby Rasmus torn it up if he was supposed to be that good?

St. Louis ushered him in at a fine pace, but power slowed, and he struggled versus lefties. Slow improvement in his walk-to-strikeout ratio didn't match the batting average regression, though. This year he'll play every day. Rasmus hit southpaws well in the minors. He's a low-risk investment in single-year leagues with solid upside, especially if he runs a bit.

Where's the hidden gem on the Cards' staff this year?

Pitching coach Dave Duncan is a god of sorts, and St. Louis has always had a thing for Brad Penny. The Boston Red Sox's shoulder program taught the righty ways to take care of himself. They dumped him, but his brief stint with the San Francisco Giants - six starts, 4-1 record, 2.59 ERA, 0.96 WHIP - suggests potential lies in his well. Cheap, late, however you do it, give him a shot.

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About Nicholas Minnix

Minnix is baseball editor and a fantasy football analyst at KFFL. He plays in LABR and Tout Wars and won the FSWA Baseball Industry Insiders League in 2010.

The University of Delaware alum is a regular guest on SiriusXM Fantasy Sports Radio and Baltimore's WNST AM 1570.

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