Clueless Voters – 1

Check out this recent poll put up by ESPN – Toughest Match-Up

– People have absolutely no idea what they are talking about. Now, unless a gaggle of hockey players all around the US have decided to hop on and vote in this poll, there is no way that Alex Ovechkin gives up a single anything in a shootout to 99% of the voters. LeBron might give up a basket??? Larry Fitz would be nearly impossible to guard, sure, but maybe the QB tosses a couple bad balls, and you get your hands on one. Tiger Woods, anybody can have a couple good shots on a golf course, and maybe Tiger busts a driver out and enters the trap. And while all these things are equally impossible, there is no doubt in my mind, that the toughest thing for the public to do would be to strap on some razor-shoes, throw on some gear, take out a flat hockey stick, and pretend for one second that they could do anything in 100 chances to score a goal on an NHL goalie. Is hockey my favorite sport? No sir – but let me tell you this, I’ve played all 4 of these sports, and hockey is by far the toughest to just strap up and play. Think about learning to walk just before playing basketball – right, good luck.

There are many sports polls on websites every day, and when I feel the need, I’m putting up some of my thoughts on them. My goal is to somehow prove that people, when given a vote, will often have no idea what they’re talking about.

Until next time….

Toughest Match-ups

Guarding Larry Fitz – 15%

LeBron James 1 on 1 – 40%

Alexander Ovechkin in a shootout – 6%

Tiger Woods in match play – 40%

All impossible for the 28,277 people that have voted thus far, but I bet 7% of the people are actually right.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Pitcher Rankings

Ah, pitchers. Do you pick the great ones high? Do you find value in younger pitchers with a chance at success? Lots of innings last year – does that show they are healthy or that they will break down? This is certainly a fickle bunch and that is why most fantasy leagues don’t have numerous pitchers leaving the board early. In points leagues, with infinite pitcher starts, a solid group of Ps will certainly help your cause. Also, where pitchers only hit the field once every 5 days, position players shoot for 162 outings. That being said, a bullpen staff ready for use makes more sense than a bunch of position players. But everyone has their opinions. Personally, I’ll take fliers on pitchers that are good that had down years in ’08, and I’ll never pay for saves – but that’s just me. Here’s my rankings.

Starting Pitchers – I’m not writing about all these guys, there’s 70 of them, but I will tier them out for you and if some guy has something useful to be said, I’ll say it.

Tier 1

1. Tim Lincecum – Tim is my favorite pitcher to watch. He has Gumby flexibility and some dirty whip on that fast ball. He’s basically unhittable.

2. C.C. Sabathia – He has pitched 500+ innings over the last two seasons, but he is a beast. He could be the top starter chosen.

3. Johan Santana – He might be more consistent and a bigger guarantee for a good season than any other pitcher.

4. Cole Hamels – Great young pitcher on a great team. He’s tough to hit, ask the Rays – and everyone else in the post-season for that matter.

5. Jake Peavy – Probably the most competitive pitcher in the game, and he’s got great stuff. But he will find 16 wins tough in San Diego.

6. Roy Halladay – If you’re in a roto league that gives a complete game stat – this guy will win that stat for you more than any other pitcher in the game. I think (not sure) he had more complete games than all the other guys in this top 10 combined.

7. Brandon Webb – He’s a great pitcher and always manages a lot of wins, and I’d take him as my #1, but I think his upside is lower than most of these guys. Still, he’s a 1st tier guy.

Tier 2

8. John Lackey – Consistently good -hurt early last season but came back to pitch well and hasn’t logged a ton of innings.

9. Dan Haren – Great in the first half, then trade him, because his value won’t get any higher.

10. Francisco Liriano – Could make himself into a top-tier pitcher, he has that stuff.

11. James Shields – As solid as they come, Shields doesn’t get ace status, but he probably is the ace over Scott Kazmir in that staff.

12. Cliff Lee – Last years numbers a fluke, maybe in some senses, but this guy had been a very good pitcher prior to ’08.

13. Roy Oswalt – A rough start to the year got Oswalt down, but he came back and put up solid stats. He’s a crafty vet, no doubt about it.

Tier 3

14. Yovani Gallardo – I love this kid’s game, and if he can stay out of the way of freak injuries he’ll be a top 10 pitcher in 2009.

15. Joba Chamberlin – Many will wonder about his innings. Many will wait to draft him for that. I will draft him and love his output for 180 innings. Thank you very much.

16. A.J. Burnett – It’s very possible that Burnett’s arm falls off. But if he produces numbers like he did last year, he’ll win 16-20 games in New York. That lineup is dirty.

17. Josh Beckett – You could steal Beckett this season, or you could waste a relatively high pick on a guy that will be hurt often.

18. Felix Hernandez – Is this the year that Hernandez starts pitching and stops throwing? Even as a thrower he’s top 20.

19. Ervin Santana – Everyone was waiting for Santana to put it all together, and now that he did, everyone doubts he’ll keep it attached. We’ll see, but this kid has good stuff and had good K to BB ratios. That’s a good sign.

20. Chad Billingsly – Great stuff, walks people – but he’s a solid 15 game winner option with good Ks in L.A.

Tier 4

21.  Daisuke Matsuzaka – Walks galore, but one of the lowest Averages against amongst starters. Not too efficient, throws a lot of pitches, but that hasn’t seemed to hurt him too much.

22. Scott Kazmir – Scott was hurt early, came back to pitching great, then faded toward the end of last season. I think he had one of the worst stat seasons of his career, and should be back to better this season. That means he should be a deal on draft day.

23. Zack Grienke – Tough to take a Royal pitcher? Nan. This kid has great stuff, everyone wanted to trade for him, the Royals were smart to hold on to him.

24. Jon Lester – Maybe this is even too low for Lester. He was the ace in Boston – and you have to love his resilience.

Tier 5

25. Scott Baker – Better than advertised, I promise.

26. Adam Wainwright

27. Rich Harden – Harden is hoping for 26-30 starts. That right there shows you his healthy upside, missing about a month of the season at best. Ha.

28. Ricky Nolasco – Won’t get love in drafts, but look at all of this guy’s numbers – especially toward the end of the season where he was striking people out and walking nobody.

29. Matt Cain – Because this guy’s luck has to turn around some year. He’s a very good pitcher with solid stats but his team won’t score runs when he pitches. Maybe this year they do.

30. Derek Lowe –

31. Ted Lilly –

32. Carlos Zambrano – Underrated? Overrated? Not sure – I like Big Z but he doesn’t do much besides win.

33. Matt Garza – Could be a steal here.

Tier 6

34. Edinson Volquez – Which one is the real Edinson? The first half or the second half? Did Dusty Baker overuse the youngster? We’ll see in ’09 but he could be a steal.

35. Max Scherzer – This is a guy I will target late. What dirty stuff he has.

36. Javier Vasquez – Atlanta seems to do good work with old pitchers coming to play for the Braves. Javier has it in him for sure.

37. Josh Johnson –

38. Gil Meche – Great numbers down the stretch, is a steal here.

39. Erik Bedard – Bedard has an injury filled season then goes from top 10 to bottom half of my top 70 – and I have him ranked higher than most. He could be the biggest steal on draft day.

40. Kevin Slowey –

41. David Price – Some think Price will be hittable early. Some don’t think he’ll pitch many innings. I think he gets up to 170 innings and wins 15 games. This kid has IT.

42. Brandon Morrow – He might be my favorite young starter in Seattle. He can be unhittable at times and doesn’t seem to be the headcase that many other M starters are.

43. John Danks –

44. Clayton Kershaw – Hooray for upside late in drafts! I like Clayton’s game.

45. Hiroki Kuroda –

46. Randy Johnson – Old but productive. Look at his numbers down the stretch and tell me he’s not worth a flier.

47. Chris Young – Steal.

48. Aaron Harang –

49. Ryan Dempster –

50. Justin Duchscherer –

51. Johnny Cueto – I love watching Johnny pitch – the first 5 innings anyway.

52. Justin Verlander –

53. Chris Volstad –

54. Chien-Ming Wang

55. John Maine –

56. Jair Jurrjens –

57. Justin Masterson –

58. Jeremy Guthrie –

59. Fausto Carmona – Can he really be as bad as he was last season? So much talent there, he might be worth a shot late.

60. Ubaldo Jimenez – Me baldo, you baldo, I’ve always had a big place in my heart for this kid and he really improved in the last half of last season.

61. Oliver Perez –

62. Wandy Rodriguez – Good at home, bad on the road – sure, but despite having one f the worst first names every, this guy is fantasy worthy in mixed leagues.

63. Chris Carpenter – Upside is Chris Carpenter, downside is, who cares, you picked him in the last round.

64. John Smoltz- If you can DL a couple people right off the bat, Smoltz is easily a guy I’d make a go at. There’s no guarnataee but then again, there never is.

65. Armando Galarraga –

66. Mike Pelfrey –

67. Andy Sonastine –

68. Jared Weaver –

69. Paul Maholm –

70. Gavin Floyd –

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Closer Rankings

I hate spending high draft picks on closers- that’s why I’ll never have the studs on this list. I like to take chances on closers and only rarely does that hurt me. That being said, there are some sure things on this list that you won’t have to pay too much to get – here are my relief pitcher rankings.

Relief Pitchers

Tier 1

1. Jonathan Papelbon – Great. Young.

2. Mariano Rivera – Awesome. Old.

3. Joe Nathan – Consistently dominant.

4. Brad Lidge – Strikeout machine, perfect last season in saves. Will be good again in ’09.

5. Joakim Soria – Better than advertised – offense should be better in ’09.

6. Francisco Rodriguez – Despite all the hate, and talks of his demise, he’ll be good in New York.

Tier 2

7. Jose Valverde – All he’s going to do is get 40+ saves, strike out 10 or 11 per 9 innings, and let you not worry one second about your save guy.

8. Brian Fuentes – He comes into a great situation on a very good team that plays a lot of close games. Fuentes is a solid saves artist.

9. Jonathan Broxton – He’s as much of a power strike out closer that you’ll find, and the Dodgers will give him plenty of save opps.

10. Carlos Marmol – Marmol was the dirtiest closer in Chicago last year, even though he pitched in the 7th and 8th innings. He’ll be solid in that spot this season.

11. B.J. Ryan – He struggled a bit after a tough injury, but this guy will get his stuff back and he’s a  crafty save artist indeed.

12. Kerry Wood – Wood had a nice first season as a closer, and should get plenty of chances to do work in Cleveland.

13. Bobby Jenks – Chubby face, and body, but a good player that consistently gets between 30-40 saves.

Tier 3

14. Trevor Hoffman – Out of San Diego means more save chances for Hoff – he may be old, but I see at least one more good year in him.

15. Heath Bell – Taking Hoff’s spot in San Diego, I’m not the only one that expects a solid closer career out of Heath Bell.

16. Matt Capps – He may close for the Pirates, but he’s good when he gets his chances. He has better numbers than anyone in this tier.

17. Francisco Cordero – Cordero has a safe closer job – there’s not a ton of people out of the top 15 that you can say that about.

Tier 4

18. Huston Street – Top 10 upside, but the guy has sand in and around his va-j-j and that could cause an infection that limits his chances to close all year long. Ridiculous. He’s allergic to air I think. At least it’s more fresh in Colorado.

19. Brian Wilson – San Francisco save machine? This guy definitely is that. Despite an ERA and WHIP that left something to be desired last season, Wilson accumulated 41 saves. He was worth what you paid, and that will happen again this year.

20. Chad Qualis – I like Qualis. I think he keeps the job in Arizona – the Diamondbacks probably play better this season, and this kid could get 35 saves in ’09.

21. Frank Francisco – He’s got dirty powerful stuff and he’s the closer in Texas. He’s in a hitters park but if you can’t touch his pitches how can you do much damage with them?

22. Joey Devine – I’m not even sure Devine gets the closer nod, but he’s had some great numbers coming out of the bullpen and if he gets the chance it’s probably his to keep.

23. Matt Lindstrom – Nothing is great about Lindstrom except the Marlins will probably play in a lot of close games, he’s their closer, and he’ll probably gather 30 saves.

24. Brandon Lyon – I’ve never been too impressed with Lyon, but then again, there’s not much that says closer about him except for the fact that he does a good job closing games. Cheap saves anyone?

Tier 5

25a. Rafael Soriano – I like Soriano to emerge at some point for the braves, as their closer – I think he’s the better option, but…

25b. Mike Gonzalez – This guy is the closer coming in I reckon, and while things might change, he did do a fine job getting the job done in the 9th toward the end of last season.

27a. Chris Perez – I like Perez, and all his youth and skill, to take the closer job in St. Louis – but Tony LaRussa is crazy and he could try to give the job away to….

27b. Jason Motte – I don’t think he’s the best option to close games for the Cards, but if he gets the gig he’ll get you some cheap saves.

29a. George Sherrill – Sherrill was a tale of two seasons, most definitely – he was a great option for fantasy owners in the first half before struggling down the stretch – was it his shoulder woes or is that what you’re getting?

29b. Chris Ray – Before his injury woes, Ray was a very effective closer – will he beat out Sherril in his first season back?

30. Fernando Rodney – Who knows, he’s got the best stuff in the Detroit bullpen, there’s a chance he gets the job when Lyon is unimpressive.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered SS Rankings

Talk about a top-heavy super-model – this might be the strongest spot in all of baseball. At least at the top anyway. 3 of the top 5 ranked players in ESPN’s fantasy baseball rankings just happen to play the short stop position. While they might be reaching a little bit for Jimmy Rollins power numbers, he’s definitely proven an ability to do it, and last years struggles and injuries still left him 3rd amongst all short stops. His power numbers were down last season, but so what. At 30, where infielders usually slow down, Rollins made up for his lack of power with speed, stealing more bases (47) than any other time in his career. That being said, this guy missed a month and finished ahead of every other SS besides Hanely and Jose Reyes. That threesome is great, but if you don’t get one of them the level of SS production drops off entirely. Here’s how my tiered rankings work out…

Tier 1

1. Jose Reyes – One of the best players in baseball. Reyes does it all. He doesn’t have great power, but he does have solid power. Everything else is brilliant. For a guy that has some of the best useable speed in the game, Reyes helps his team, and fantasy owners out by making contact, and drawing close to as many walks as times he Ks. His steals were down a bit last season, but he’s going to get around 60. The guy may have only mashed 16 HRs, but realize that he also accounted for 19 triples. That’s dirty. Jose is magic. He’s 25. He’s in a good line-up that plays good baseball. He’s one of my favorite guys in the league.

2. Hanley Ramirez – Hanley is one of the best players in baseball. Ramirez does it all. He has great power, great speed, but strikes out a little too much, which hurts his value a little in -1 K leagues like mine. But he is magic and basides whiffing occasionally, this guy really is magic. Hanley might bat 3rd this season which could drop his steals a bit but should up his RBI to around 100. His upside hasn’t been reached and he’s already one of the best in baseball. Tough to not take this guy #1.

Tier 2

3. Jimmy Rollins – From tier 1 to tier 2 isn’t much of a drop off, but I would consider Jose and Hanley as higher value players. I think they are pretty interchangeable while Rollins falls off a bit for me. But remember, ESPN ranks Rollins output 1st amongst SS’s in points leagues, and it makes sense because he never strikes out and some expect a 25HR season. I think he’ll stay closer to 15 and though he’ll be very good, I expect bigger things out of the first two.

Tier 3

4. Rafael Furcal – Furcal has done some good things, and last year was absolutely hitting the cover off the ball before losing much of the season to injury. If Manny comes back, Furcal will score even more runs, and if he stays healthy he’s going to be one of the better SS options in all of baseball. Even without Manny, Raf will be solid in that maturing Dodger lineup.

5. Stephen Drew – Drew has tons of upside, and has been much-hyped during his short career. Be very quite about it, but he was showing signs of meeting his potential during the last half of last season. He hit .291 last season with 21 HRs and 91 runs scored. Nothing wrong with that. Add in the fact that he struggled early and is only 25, I’ll take a chance on Drew if I can’t corral one of the top guys.

6. Troy Tulowitzki – Tulowitzki is dropping off radars, but that just don’t make no sense. He struggled last season after mashing the Rockies into the post-season in 2007, but he’ll be back. He’s too good and played much better down the stretch than people give him credit for. He really struggled in 2008 early, but he has a better chance of doing better than his 2007 rookie season than the poor numbers he put up last year. He doesn’t have as much protection in that line-up, but he’ll be a nice starting SS in fantasy formats.

Tier 4

7. Derek Jeter – Jeter isn’t going to play like the guy that got all that love years ago. He’ll get 10-15 HRs, bat between .305-.325, steal 11-17 bases, score 100+ runs, with 70-80 RBI. He won’t do much more, but more importantly, he won’t do much less. He might not be worth the hype, but he’s still solid.

8. Michael Young – Last year was the first season Young hit under .300 in his last 6 campaigns. He’ll get back to .300, it’s almost a guarantee. That’s something like 12 more balls finding turf instead of a mitt – he’ll be back. That being said, his upside for your fantasy team isn’t that high – however, he’s still starter worthy in fantasy circles – he’ll get close to 100 runs and RBI despite his lack of HR pop.

9a. J.J. Hardy – Hardy strikes out and crushes home runs. Especially compared to other SSs after the top couple guys. He is a solid player that will start all year on fantasy clubs. He’s a lot like Jhonny Peralta, so, I’ll rank them the same…

9b. Jhonny Peralta – Consistency is there for this power hitting SS. He’s hit .270 with at least 21 home runs with at least 70RBI in 3 of his last four seasons. He doesn’t hit for a really high average, he strikes out a lot, and he doesn’t walk all that much – but after tier 3 he looks pretty solid.

10. Orlando Cabrera – If Cabrera goes to Oakland he’ll likely score a lot of runs as a lead-off guy, SS, on a team that will hit a lot of HRs. He’s a freaking selfish bastard, but hey, fantasy stats are fantasy stats, and while he is ancient, he’s still productive as well.

Tier 5

11. Miguel Tejada – Lots up in the air here. I hate the steroid stuff, but hate even more all the freaking out the congress did about the whole thing. Tejada didn’t want to throw his teammates under the bus – weird. I like the guy, I hope he turns it back around and plays some ball this year, but there’s lots that can happen here and you need to worry about it. Plus, his skills are definitely declining. Still, he’s a solid bat at SS, can’t argue much with that.

12. Mike Aviles – This may be a bit of a reach, but why not reach for a no-namer like Aviles that hit .325 in his rookie season, busting out 10 dingers and 51 RBI in only 419 at bats. He also stole 8 bases. It may have been a fluke, but it may not, and he might be well worth the chance getting drafted in this tier of SSs.

13. Yunel Escobar – Yunny didn’t impress like he was supposed to last season. None of his numbers stood out but he didn’t kill any owners either. Still, the Braves must not be too impressed as they tried to deal him all summer. I still think he could bat close to .300 and have better power numbers next season.

14. Edgar Renteria – He’s always had his best seasons in the National League, and he’ll be in the middle of the order in San Francisco so why not another solid year from Edgar? His 20 steal days are probably over, but he’ll likely be close to 20 than 6 playing in SF where they actually run. He’s in a good situation with a young team that is maturing – I think he will be a useful starter this season.

15. Ryan Theriot – He walks more than he strikes out. He’ll steal 20+ bases. He’ll score 80-100 runs in Chicago. He’s a guy you can get right at the end of the draft and he might just do enough to make you smile.

16. Jed Lowrie – This kid could be solid, and might be the SS answer in Boston. That right there is enough to make him fantasy worthy. Jed didn’t have fancy numbers last season, but in just 260 at bats he totaled 46 RBI and his .339 on base percentage scored him 34 runs in those minimal chances. I like Lowrie, and while I’m not the only one, he does kind of scare me as I’m not sure he’ll get more than 400 abs.

Tier 6

17. Christian Guzman – Nothing that impressive about Guzman – and there never really has been (don’t tell the Nationals, they felt the need to get him 4.5 mil a year after the 2004 season where he batted .274 with 7 HRs and 10 SBs and 46 RBI). Anyway, he’ll probably bat around .300 and score more runs in an improving Washington lineup.

18. Brandon Wood – There’s a chance he doesn’t get the starting gig, and that will hurt his value, but his upside is much greater than most and especially Erick Aybar, the guy he’s trying to fend off. Wood has 30HR power in a season of at bats, now if he could just lay off some bad pitches and turn some of those Ks into BBs.

19. Yuniesky Betancourt – Like Dutin Pedroia, here is a guy that swings really hard. Unlike Pedroia, Yuny flies out just short a lot. Still, he gets a lot of hits, hits the ball hard, and can be useable in a crunch.

20. Jeff Keppinger – Before Kepp was hurt last season, he was really swinging the bat well. I know he’s competing for the starting spot, but that offense doesn’t have the bats they used to and they might need Jeff’s extra offense.

21. Jerry Hairston Jr. – Jerry had great numbers in his minimal at bats last season and could very well get starter time in Cinci – if he does, he’s worth a look for sure, there’s always been upside with Hairston.

22. Elvis Andrus – He doesn’t hit for much power but his minor league stats suggest he’ll come in at about .250-.275. The Rangers are obviously high on him, but remember he’s just 20. He does have ++ speed accumulating 54 steals last season, 80 in 2007, and 23 in 2006. He’s young but his upside and the fact that he has a starting gig might make him a nice sleeper option in a run scoring lineup.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered 2B Rankings

The influx in talent at 2B has been amazing. This used to be one of the more shallow positions in baseball, and getting a guy that could put up good numbers here was worth a reach on draft day. That’s just not the case anymore as 2B has turned into a powerhouse of little guys that do it all. The AL MVP was 5’6″ Dustin Pedroia and all the way down the list guys put up numbers worthy of stronger positions. Being one of the last teams in your league to select a 2B shouldn’t leave you hurting for power, but instead getting nice value from a guy like Jose Lopez or Mark DeRosa. These are my 2B Rankings for 2009.

Tier 1

1. Chase Utley – There are some health concerns with Utley, but he says he’ll be back by opening day, and how can you question one of the toughest and best hitters in the game? I’ll tell you this much, even if he misses the first couple weeks, if I could have one two-bagger it would be Utley. One of these years he’s going to hit 40+ HRs.

2. Dustin Pedroia – How can you not love this kid? He hits in a great line-up, he gets more out of his ability than any guy in the league, and he’s young and going to get better – he works to hard to stay the same. Utley may be at the top, but Pedroia proved that he can be magic too.

3. Ian Kinsler – If health weren’t an issue, Kinsler would rank higher than Dustin Pedroia – so let it be known, the upside of Kinsler trumps that of DP, but if upside was the judge of Pedroia the kid would have never made it to the big leagues in the first place. Regardless, Kinsler is a great option on draft day, a kid that can truly do it all.

4. Brian Roberts – Roberts is one of the top tier guys. He’s 4th, but he’s better than everyone else and there’s a chance he gets traded partway through the season to a contender – and that would almost surely mean a better hitting situation for one of the games best fantasy worthy middle infielders.

Tier 2

5. Dan Uggla – Dan Uggla is prone to ups and downs, probably more so than most 2Bs in the league, but his ups are as high as they get, and if you get him early there’s a nice chance his trade value sky-rockets and you can cash in. I like Uggla – he swings like he means it. Hence all the Ks, but still.

6. Alexei Ramirez – This guy reminds me of a young Alfonso Soriano (by the way, if this makes you feel as old as it makes me feel, Soriano is not young anymore). He can really swing the bat and his wiry frame makes all that pop seem impossible. He’s young and hitting in a good place for power.

7. Brandon Phillips – Phillips’ best years might be behind him, and 30-30 might not happen again, but that being said, he’ll probably be a good deal this year because he was hurt late last season and people often let that effect drafts. Don’t let it effect yours, he’ll produce all year for you.

8. Robinson Cano – Cano had a brutal start to the season last year, but he’s a very good player. He’s also rocking his swing in a lineup where everyone is pretty damn crafty. He’ll get lots of fast balls and there won’t be too many attempts to pitch around him. I’m guessing he has a nice bounce back year and does work for fantasy owners that take the plunge.

Tier 3

9. Jose Lopez – One of the most underrated middle infielders in the game, and it makes sense. He plays for a Seattle team that was brutal last season and he plays at 10:30 EST in more than 75% of his games. The world never sees the guy. Well, he’s good, he’s young, he hits at the top of the order in Seattle and he’s their only consistent run-producer and Ichiro is always on second when he’s up. Sounds like 80+RBI to me.

10. Howie Kendrick – This kid is legit, now if he could only stay healthy. Seeing as though he’s never had more than 400 at bats, I overlooked him a little bit, forgetting him originally on my 2B Rankings. But he’s a guy that has a little pop, can steal bases, hits for a .300+ average and will surely score runs in the Angels lineup.

11. Placido Polanco – Boring old Placido – sure, say what you want, but I’ll take him really late and watch him consistently get me points that help me win weekly. He’s not fast, he’s not powerful, he’s just always on base and right at the top of an order that is going to produce runs all year long. Don’t hesitate.

12. Kelly Johnson – Kelly Johnson didn’t impress like many thought he would. So what, it’s coming – take a chance on this guy later on draft day and it’s very possible you reap the benefits of a late round steal.

Tier 4

13. Mike Aviles – I like this guy more than most because I don’t see much not to be fond of. I would probably even reach a little bit higher on the 2B order to grab this kid because he could continue to hit .325. If he does that with 600 at bats then he’s going to hit close to 10HRs, get 70RBI, and score a bunch of runs, even in KC. In fact, with Alex Gordon, Billy Butler, and a roost of young talent maturing in KC, that order might do more damage than people expect. I think they’ll be solid offensively.

14. Mark DeRosa – DeRosa is old, he really had one amazing year (last season), and he moved teams. But it’s not like Cleveland can’t hit, and he’s likely going to play every day. Not only that, but DeRosa was a mid-season pickup that helped lead me to a Championship so he has a warm fuzzy place in my heart.

Tier 5

15. Kazuo Matsui – Injury problem always, but when he’s healthy he’s a solid start.

16. Ronnie Belliard – Belliard had a decent season and he’s always had decent power numbers for a 2B.

17. Akinori Iwamura – Iwamura could continue to hit atop the Rays line-up, and in that case he’s almost guaranteed fantasy points. But I’m not too fond of the little 2B.

18. Felipe Lopez – Lopez could do good things in Arizona if he can get his health together. This guy had one amazing year that I would never expect to happen again – but he could hit .285 with double digit HRs and score runs in Arizona.

19. Freddy Sanchez – Sanchez is a good contact hitter that has months where he sees the ball very well. He will be fantasy relevant sometime this season.

20. Orlando Hudson – Hudson’s batting average has improved every single season since 2003. During that time he’s gone from .268 to .305 – if that continues then he’ll find a place even though he doesn’t do much else besides get on base and score runs. In a deep league he could be worth starting, especially one that has a middle infield slot.

21. Mark Ellis – Remember in 2007 when Ellis hit .276 with 19HRs, 76RBI, and 9SB? Me too. That’s why he’s on here. If he does that again he deserves a higher spot. Obviously I wonder if he can. One good thing, despite injuries last season Ellis stole 14 bases in only 440 at bats. Upside late in the draft, that’s a good thing.

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Catcher Rankings

Catcher is a little bit easier, everyone knows where the good gets are, and after that it’s basically a crap shoot. Well not completely up for grabs, but there are plenty of guys that produced above what they were expected to, below what they were expected to, got hurt, or are stuck in the minors – so many options, but this is a top heavy and very shallow depth position. One of my readers sent me an email asking, “Can I write your catcher’s rankings for you? Mauer, McCann, Martin, who gives a hump.” Good old Red Red Ryan’s list might not be as detailed of mine, but he gets the idea. Still, there’s more than just nobody’s after the top 3 – there’s always a good deal somewhere! I only see 3 tiers at this position though, tier 1, tier 2, and the rest.

Tier 1

1. Brian McCann – This guy is a stud. He hits like everyone thought Billy Buttler would hit in KC. Well he’s doing it, and he’s doing it from the catcher position with a little more power and he’s young and healthy. That moves him just a smidget over Joe Mauer in my rankings.

2. Joe Mauer – Joe is an amazing hitter. He had 34 more walks than strikeouts, his average is always good, and he never hurts you anywhere. He won’t hit for power, but he’s a great point option and one of the best catchers in the game. And like McCann, he’s still young.

3. Russell Martin – Russell is arguably the best roto catcher because he gives you SBs and everything else. He’s not extremely powerful but looks like a .280+ hitter with 15-20 dinger upside and is in a nice lineup that is maturing before our very eyes. I would pick him 3rd, but he’s in the first tier. Like the two above, he’s also in his mid 20s, 25 in fact.

Tier 2

4. Geovany Soto – This National League Rookie of the Year slowed down toward the end of the season, but he’s got nice power and sits in a pretty packed Cubs lineup. He strikes out a ton, which hurts him in points based leagues like this one, but he’s one of the few catchers I’d waste a decent draft pick on.

5. Victor Martinez – Last year was one of injuries and Victor’s stats show that. If he gets back to his old self, he’s a steal as the 5th catcher off the board, but I don’t think you can safely draft Martinez as the hitter he once was. He’s a risk, but maybe worth it at this point in the draft.

Tier 3

6. Ryan Doumit – I rate Doumit a lot higher than most, but i like what his little stats tell me about his big stats. The job is his and his alone in Pittsburgh, and while that lineup won’t scare anyone, he’ll be a producer in the middle of it.

7. Bengie Molina – Bengie doesn’t get enough credit for what he’s done. He’s very consistent, and I believe he’s staying in the meat of the Giants’ order, a place that he made a living at last season.

8. Jorge Posada – Posada could also be a steal, but he’s a risk. There’s already a little question if he’ll be back by the beginning of the season, but he might be worth the risk. He’s still a good hitter, and that NY lineup is going to produce runs like it’s Daddy Day Care on bean burrito day.

9. Chris Iannetta – Iannetta is another guy getting little love for his impressive numbers last year. In just 333 at bats Chris bashed 18HRs with 65RBI – he’ll get more at bats this season, and his numbers will stay strong in Colorado.

10. Matt Wieters – Apparently this kid can hit a little bit. His minor league numbers insist on super potential from this young slugger, and at the catcher position that is rare. I might reach a little higher for him considering that if he does stay in AAA, the worst you could do is add one of the other 4th tier guys, there should be guys that end up being Top 10 fantasy catchers left out of drafts everywhere.

11. Kurt Suzuki – There’s something to be said about a catcher that plays every single day, Kurt is just about as close to that as they come, and his stats won’t hurt you. Thank alone makes him a decent option.

12. Ramon Hernandez – Hernandez moves to Cincinnati where homeruns leave ball parks in a hurry. Hernandez isn’t a great option, but nobody is after the first few guys, and there’s chance for improved numbers in ’09.

13. Mike Napoli – Upside galore with real-side health issues. Napoli crushed 20 dingers in 227 at bats last season. If he could stay healthy, he could hit 30.

14. John Baker – Baker is a nice young prospect in Florida that is probably worth more than the 14th pick. I’m just not 100% sold on him where I know most of the guys above will give me numbers.

15. Jeff Clement – Clement didn’t have great numbers in his first season of Major League action, but in the 100 or so at bats prior to his injury it looked like things kind of clicked for him. As a possible DH and Catcher  in Seattle, he’ll get a good amount of at bats to prove himself.

16. A.J. Pierzynski – A.J. may be getting old, but he’s going to hit around .280 and they can score some runs in Chicago.

17. Yadier Molina – Yadier is just one of the Molina brothers. He’s still very young and his power could slightly improve, but he’s going to be more of an average hitter than power, and you’ll be lucky to get 12 HRs out of him.

18. Kelly Shoppach – I like Shoppach as a nice sleeper, especially if Cleveland uses Martinez at DH and 1B most of the time. Shoppach definitely proved that he could hit at a major league level last season.

19. Gerald Laird – I think this is the year that all the Detroit hitter hype comes true, and it looks like Gerald will be the guy manning catcher most every day in Michigan. Laird could be an absolute steal on draft day.

20. Taylor Teagarden – Salty (Jarrod Saltalamacchia) gets more love than Taylor, but I have a feeling the job could be Teagarden’s if the Rangers get their way and find a trade partner to take Salty. Even if that doesn’t happen, this kid can actually catch – and he has nice hitting upside too.

Alex Rodriguez

This could be even more ridiculous. (A-Rod Story) So basically, if A-Rod didn’t admit anything than he would go absolutely unpunished because he couldn’t be charged because the tests were not to be read. And I’d like to punch Bud Selig in the face for saying that he is “heartsick over the news” as if he didn’t freaking know the results of the damn tests. He’s the idiot that should be punished. A-Rod did what tons of other baseball players did – was he wrong? – sure, morally he was wrong. But baseball needs to stop blaming the players for finding ways to work around the system and start blaming themselves for the stupid ass system. It’s not the “illegal” players and the “tarnished numbers” that are making me sick, it’s the idiots running the different shows everywhere.

Michael Phelps

He smoked pot at a college party – for the love of all that is wrong with the world, stop being a bunch of idiots (yeah you, the man). Why do law enforcement officials love to make examples of big time professionals these days? This is the dumbest shit I’ve ever seen. Throw the book at a guy who smoked marijuana. He didn’t sell it or grow it or lace it with cop-poop. I hate. This is the most absurd “big story” in recent sports history, and it sickens me that I stumble upon “new information” every damn day. I mean, read this, how stupid does it get?

Recent Phelps Story

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered 1B/3B Rankings

This is similar to my outfield rankings, but hopefully in less words (that’s the dream, for time and typing purposes), but we’ll see. I’m linking 1st and 3rd basemen in one group, but will happily rank them separately at the bottom for those that aren’t interested in them being ranked together. Personally, I used to think that 3rd Basemen held more value than 1st Basemen, and I still do. There’s 5 good third basemen, a maybe, and an old guy named Larry that might play 130 games if you’re lucky…. After that it’s a gong-show and quite possibly the most shallow position in baseball. Anyhow, ranking them together makes one less page for me to write – so here it is – and even though I think Pujols is the better hitter, we’ll start off with A-Rod…

Tier 1

1. Alex Rodriguez – He plays 3rd Base, hits in a ridiculous Yankee lineup that lost Bobby Abreu and gained Mark Teixiera. He is not longer playing with a weight on his shoulders, and despite every stupid critic in the world, this guy has been clean for some time. He does it all and should continue.

2. Albert Pujols – Albert is magic. I am ranking him behind A-Rod strictly because of him playing third instead of first, but Albert is one of the best hitters I’ve ever seen. I would be stunned if Al didn’t get back to the 45+ HRs he hit in 2004 and 2006. This guy is a career .334 hitter and that doesn’t look to decline anytime soon. He doesn’t steal you bases but he does walk twice as much as he strikes out – that’s great in points leagues.

3. David Wright – The fact that he rolls at 3rd instead of 1st might have me picking him over Albert by draft time, but right now I’m sticking with Albert because he’s freaking magic. Still, David is a great addition to any team, and despite maybe A-Rod’s owner, you won’t get better production from 3rd base.

Tier 2

4. Miguel Cabrera – The American League is a hitters league, and fortunately it took Miguel the first half of the season to realize that. Fortunate for this year’s drafters. Many people forget that the big former Marlin is only 25 – and I think his seasonal highs are his basement coming into his second season with the Tigers. That lineup that everyone thought would score tons of runs last season, it will this season. But Miguel still has never hit more than the 37 homeruns and 127 RBI he picked up last season – so he can’t move ahead of Albert on my list.

5. Mark Teixeira – This guy is the meaning of consitency, and I only think his numbers improve in New York with that dirty lineup. Despite spending 2007 with Texas and Atlanta, Mark hit 30 HRs and batted in over 100 in 132 games. He split teams in 2008, again changing leagues, and hit 30HRs with 121 RBI. In that last 5 years he hasn’t had less than 30HRs and 100 RBI. I wouldn’t be surprised if he had the best season of his career in New York.

6. Justin Morneau – Morneau is very good on a team that is maturing offensively. Denard Span and Carlos Gomez are both a year older, and that should mean more people on base for Justin when he’s mashing.

7. Lance Berkman – Berks is 33 but he’s one of the best and most consistent hitters in baseball. I doubt he’ll start off on the same kind of fire he did in 2008, but there is no doubt that this guy is going to be a top hitter in baseball.

Tier 3

8. Evan Longoria – You’re probably taking Longoria a bit high if you do, but he’s a dandy. The kid is one of the Top 4 3rd basemen in the league and he’s very young.

9. Aramis Ramirez – Aramis Ramirez can easily be argued to be the 3rd best 3-bagger in your draft. Longoria is a risk because of his body of work and A-Ram is about as consistent as hitters get in a very good lineup in Chicago. Hurt for parts of ’08, his value might be just right for you on draft day.

10. Ryan Howard – This is one format where Ks really can hurt you. Howard had -196 points last season, that’s freaking amazing. Because of that, and the reality that his Ks have only grown from 180-199-199 in his first 3 seasons, he doesn’t make pound the value-meter very high in formats such as the one listed. Still, if you are in a roto league, or one that doesn’t dog Ks, this guy should move up a bit because he hammers balls and drives in runs like it’s his job – because it is.

11. Prince Fielder – Prince has lots of upside, strikes out a lot, but can still crush. He had a great 2nd half of the season in ’08 and I expect him to be back to his powerful self in 2009. I think he’s a nice value pick.

Tier 4

12. Arian Gonzalez – Adrian Gonzalez had his best power season of his career. But he plays for San Diego, and many insist he’ll drop back a little in HRs. Still, he’s a solid 1-bagger.

Tier 5

13. Kevin Youkilis – Last season was by far Kevin’s best season ever. A lot of his numbers insist he’ll drop off a bit from that, but he’ll always be a run producer in Boston.

14. Joey Votto – I like this kid a lot. He might not have as many studs around him as he did last year, but the guys that are hitting around him might be on base more and strikeout less. That’s good for a couple reasons. His potential has yet to be reached.

15. Derek Lee –  Lee is in a great offense and can put up really great numbers. He’s also been streaky with power numbers, but he’ll always drive in runs hitting where he does in Chicago.

16. Aubrey Huff – Which Aubrey will you get? The hype that used to be Huff and was last year too, or the guy that played all those mediocre seasons in-between?

17. Chipper Jones – Oh Larry. Chipper hit .360 last season, spending a big portion of the season at .400 or better. Chipper can swing a bat despite being oft injured and even in 130 games he could get you right into the playoffs with his solid offensive totals.

18. Carlos Pena – Carlos isn’t a good average hitter but he’s much better than he started out the 2008 season. Carlos has 40 dinger power and he’s relatively cheap.

Tier 6

19. Chris Davis – This may be all hype, but a 3B eligible young slugger with upside goes a long way in fantasy drafts, I would reach a little for him just in case.

20. Garret Atkins – I’m not too fond of Garret but he puts up pretty consistent numbers and is definitely a fantasy force. However, that offense isn’t as powerful as it once was.

21. Carlos Delgado – Many thought Carlos was done, but here he is, making his presence felt on my list – and he deserves it, at least for one more season.

22. Adrian Beltre – Beltre was hurt last year and still managed to get his Mariner averages in most areas. He’s a consistent guy, never the guy that will hit like he did in LA his last season, but then again, you don’t have to draft him with those hopes in mind.

Tier 7

23. Mark Derosa – He should have playability or position eligibility at 2B, 3B, and OF – which makes him even a little more valuable probably – but DeRosa was impressive last season.

24. Alex Gordon – Lots of tools. Alex hasn’t lived up to the hype, but sometimes it takes a guy one more year – could be his year.

25. Ryan Zimmerman – Zimmerman has shown flashes, and his offense is getting better in Washington.

26. Chone Figgins – They say Figgins will never hit .330 again – probably not, but he might play 150 games and if he does that he’s a good deal.

27. Jed Lowrie (playing SS but has 3B eligibility) – Jed looks like he’s going to get everyday at bats and that might make him a nice sleeper.

1st Baseman Rankings

Tier 1

1. Albert Pujols

Tier 2

2. Miguel Cabrera

3. Mark Teixeira

4. Justin Morneau

5. Lance Berkman

Tier 3

6. Ryan Howard

7. Prince Fielder

Tier 4

8. Arian Gonzalez

9. Kevin Youkilis

Tier 5

10. Joey Votto

11. Derek Lee

12. Aubrey Huff

13. Carlos Pena

Tier 6

14. Chris Davis

15. Carlos Delgado

3rd Baseman Rankings

Tier 1

1. Alex Rodriguez

2. David Wright

Tier 2

3. Evan Longoria

4. Aramis Ramirez

Tier 3

5. Kevin Youkilis

6. Aubrey Huff

7. Chipper Jones

Tier 4

8. Chris Davis

9. Garrett Atkins

10. Adrian Beltre

Tier 5

11. Mark Derosa

12. Alex Gordon

13. Ryan Zimmerman

14. Chone Figgins

15. Jed Lowrie

Fantasy Baseball Preview: Tiered Outfielder Rankings

Obviously Fantasy Baseball doesn’t get as much love from my site as Fantasy Football, but Football is over for a while, and Fantasy Baseball drafts have already begun. If you need a little help with your positional rankings for “points” leagues, this is the place to go. Rotisserie leagues are different, so don’t get them confused. Here are rankings for leagues that reward points for total bases (1 per base) steals (1) RBI (1) BB (1) Runs (1) Strike Outs (-1)… I’m putting them in Tiers, because that’s the only way rankings should be organized – hope you enjoy!

Outfield is not a position crowded with top heavy performers – at least not last season. Of the Top 10 only Carlos Beltran and Manny Ramirez make the list. Not even 100 points separate 2nd and 21st on the list of outfielders, and there are tons of young guys that could make a splash. Think of last years top 20, you’ll find guys like Josh Hamilton, Nate McLouth, Carlos Quentin, Raul Ibanez, Ryan Ludwick, Brian Giles, Shane Victorino and more in this season’s top 25… These are names that nobody thought would enter the fray, or nobody picked like a Top 25 fantasy outfielder – and there will be more this year. My point is this, if you are drafting early, I would save my money or 1st round draft picks for non-outfielders. Overspending for a position of strength is silly, especially with guys like Andre Eithier, Xavier Nady, Brad Hawpe, and Milton Bradley will fly way under the radar, and guys like Carlos Lee, Soriano, and Vernon Wells will have lost value because of injury filled seasons – that’s not even mentioning youngsters like Carlos Gomez, Cameron Maybin, Nelson Cruz and Denard Span. The outfield spot isn’t stuffed with top producers, but it does have a flurry of startable players – that screams quarterback, and that means don’t ever reach. That being said, I would love some of these top stars, I’m just willing to let them fall to me.

There’s a little exert about each player in my Top 3 Tiers – I have also listed a fantasy upside and downside for each player in my Top 5 Tiers – they correlate with the upside and downside that I think each player could accumulate this coming season, barring injury.

Here’s my Top 30….

Tier 1

1. Josh Hamilton – I may be the only one with Josh Hamilton as my top rated fantasy outfielder, but that’s a limb I don’t mind climbing out on – hell, I’ll jump up and down on that sucker and see how it holds. In his first full season in the Majors, all Josh did was club 32HRs with 130RBI while batting .300+ – But even more amazing, I watched this guy swing the bat. Yes folks, it’s not all about numbers, and I’m willing to say that there are very few players with the power upside of Hamilton – he can make a wood bat crack with the best of them. I think he’ll hit more HRs, have more RBIs, and strikeout less in 2009 – that gets him to the top spot in my points league. What people don’t realize about Hamilton is his athleticism is off the charts – he’s faster and more agile than most anyone knows, and his numbers will prove it this season. (Fantasy Upside: Not reached yet, but…  .315, 45HRs, 145RBI, 15SB – Downside – .290, 30HRs, 120RBI, 5SB)

2. Grady Sizemore – I have a lot of love for Grady’s game because he does it all. Also, I tackled this guy a couple times in high school, so there’s that personal connection that moves him that much further up my list. Grady is only 26 and garnered career highs in HRs and RBI last season with 33 and 90 respectively. As a leadoff hitter, those 91 RBI are impressive. He managed his worst batting average of his career, but that’s one of the most ridiculous stats in baseball. That will go up this season and I’m predicting his big numbers stay about the same – his power stroke is magic. This super-athlete could hit 40-40 before his career is over. (Fantasy Upside: .300, 35HRs, 100RBI, 40SB – .268, 28HRs, 78RBI, 30SB)

3. Carlos Beltran – How ESPN rates Beltran as the 11th best outfielder last season is beyond me. He’s magic in rotisserie, as he does it all, and he finished atop the OF list in points leagues be a pretty nice margin. He had his lowest HR output in the last 3 seasons, managing only 27 long balls, but he also had his highest batting average, played his most complete season since 2002, and did everything for the Mets. Carlos might not be the 40-40 guy many hoped he’d be, at 31 he may have reached his high point, but this guy is always good, and always better going down the stretch. Also, his Ks and BBs are very similar, so he won’t lose you points there.  (Fantasy Upside: .285, 33HRs, 116RBI, 25SB – Downside: .274, 27HRs, 110RBI, 20SB)

4. Carlos Lee – This is a guy that always puts in work. He was touted as the only sure thing .300-30HR-100RBI outfielder headed into 2008, and despite missing 40+ games Lee finished only 2HRs short of that mark. Amazing. He’s not the flashy stud athletic outfielder that people seem to hop on bandwagons to top picks, but he’s going to get his making him probably the safest pick in Fantasy Baseball. (Fantasy Upside: .320, 32HRs, 120RBI, 10SB – Downside: .285 30HRs, 100RBI, 6SB)

5. Ryan Braun – Braun, one of the most impressive young stars in the game, hasn’t gotten close to his full potential. While getting a40 more at bats in 2008 than he did in his rookie season of 2007, Braun just barely eclipsed his rookie of the year totals in HRs and RBI – going from 34 and 97 to 37 and 106. I have reason to believe that his 3rd season in the big show will be his most impressive. The more comfortable he gets the better his numbers will project. If he can shrink his strikeout numbers he’ll really be something special. (Fantasy Upside: .325, 42HRs, 120RBI, 15SB – Downside: .285, 35HR, 105RBI, 14SB)

6. Manny Ramirez – Manny is arguably the most talented hitter in baseball. His numbers after Boston, and especially those in the playoffs – were amazing. In 53 games with the Dodgers, Manny hit .396 and mashed 17HRs while batting in 53… Those are freakish numbers. This is also a guy that can hit anything, drove in 100 plus RBI in 12 of his last 14 seasons, and spends lots of time working on his craft. But there’s contract stuff, there’s Manny being Manny, and that makes him the closest thing to Terrell Owens that fantasy baseball has. All that being said, I’d love this guy on my team, and chances are he’ll mash pitches throughout 2009. He’s also the closest thing to Barry Bonds that today’s baseball has. He could also not sign a contract and disappear to Planet Man-Ram – or sign a contract that he’s not happy with and play with poo-face all season long. Lots of questions move him farther down that his numbers suggest. (Fantasy Upside: .340, 45HRs, 140RBI, 3SB- Downside .296, 35HRs, 110RBI, 0SB)

Tier 2

7. Matt Holliday – I don’t know what to expect from Holliday. The guy has a sweet right handed swing, and it wouldn’t surprise me to see him do just fine in Oakland. However, baseball is a numbers game, and you have to acknowledge the fact that he played in Colorado his entire career and didn’t hit nearly as well on the road. He’s now in Oakland where offensive fantasy players go to die. Since 2006 when Matt became one of the most consistent young hitters in the league, and 2007 when he turned in his second straight .326+, 34HR+, 114RBI+ season – he took a step backwards last season. He still hit .320, he struck out less and walked more, and he stole twice as many bases as any other season (28 compared to 14 back in 2005) but he hit only 25HRs with 88RBI – I expect his Oakland numbers to be more similar to that than his ’06-’07 stats. But his body of work over those previous seasons is impressive and he can be drafted that way. (Fantasy Upside: .340, 36HRs, 130RBI, 28SB – Downside: .320, 25HRs, 90RBI, 10SB)

8. Nick Markakis – Stud. He is protecting a poor lineup, but this kid is a 180 peice tool box. He’s just 25 years old, and his power numbers should improve. His power was down a bit in 2008, but his walks were way up, his average was a little better, and he hit more doubles in less at bats. He only had 10 SB, which might get people off the idea that he’s going to be a 30-20 guy, but he doesn’t hurt you anywhere and helps in all areas. If his lineup improves, he’ll get even better. (Fantasy Upside: .315, 28HRs, 115 RBIs, 18SB – Downside: .300, 20HRs, 87RBI, 10SB)

9. Carlos Quentin – He has one hell of a 3/4 season last year – no doubt about that. Had he continued instead of sustaining an injury he was probably in line to become the AL MVP. Still that was just one season. In 480 at bats Carlos mashed 36HRs with 100RBi and a .288 average. He’s only 26, but neither of his previous major league stints projected him anywhere close to those numbers – so, you’re definitely taking a chance on a guy that could mash once again or go back to his 20HR upside… I tend to think he’ll continue to hit nice power numbers, but projected totals of 44+ seem a little high. (Fantasy Upside: .288, 44HRs, 125RBIs, 9SB – Downside: .250, 18HRs, 70RBI, 3SB)

10. Nate McLouth – What a year for this Pirate. Nate started off as hot as anyone, and despite a mid-season post all-star break slump, he managed a .276 average with 26HRs and 94RBIs. Better yet, he seemed to get better after struggling mid-season. When teams started understanding that he had more than expected, they pitched him different, not giving him as many pitches to hit. McLouth struggled with that for a while, but started taking what people gave him toward the end of the season, giving me hope for a repeat performance in 2009. But only time will tell. He’s a risky early pick, but could have some nice value in drafts. (Fantasy Upside: .285, 28HRs, 100RBI, 25SB – Downside: .266, 19HRs, 78RBI, 20SB)

11. Jason Bay – Jason will be undervalued. He’s perfect for Boston’s Green Monster and was a very consistent force for the Red Sox. He struggled for a year and a half in Pittsburgh, but injuries had something to do with that, and he looks like the Jason Bay that was a first round pick as a Pirate slugger headed into 2007 before he hit .247 in his worst season as a major leaguer. But he fought back last season and managed 31HRs, and a .286 batting average in 155 games between Boston and Pittsburgh. All his numbers improved while in Boston, except maybe HRs which basically stayed the same. But he is part of quite a lineup for the Sox, and I expect another nice year from Jason. (Fantasy Upside: .299, 35HRs, 120RBI, 11SB – Downside: .280, 29HRs, 100RBI, 7SB)

12. Alfonso Soriano – Soriano is a frustrating guy to own, he’s streakier than a lazy 3rd graders undies and has the upside of any young slugger in the league. I’d say that he’s best to own late, because that’s when he usually has more upside that dirty undies, but you never know with this guy. Still, he might be found at great value. He’s 1st round material that might last until round 4, and at that point even I might give him a shot. If you want to roll the dice, and I’ve been known to go straight for Yhatzees – then Soriano is your kind of guy. In just 109 games in 2008 he managed 29 bombs and 75RBI – those are good stats for a season. Still, Fons is not young anymore (33) and is probably not the guy flurting with 40-40 (or even 30-30) that he was earlier in his career. Still, his 109 game stats show what he can do if he stays healthy. Ifs and buts. Will you take that chance? (Fantasy Upside: .299, 40HRs, 104RBI, 30SB – Downside: .277, 33HRs, 75RBI, 20SB)

Tier 3

13. Raul Ibanez – Raul Ibanez could be dynamite in Philadelphia. That park launches home runs, and he’ll be protected with some big bats in that lineup. If he did what he did in Seattle last season, I’m willing to bet he’s got a chance to really impress in Philly. His upside and downside are both good. (Fantasy Upside: .295, 33HRs, 123RBI, 4SB – Downside: .285, 20HRs, 95RBI, 1SB)

14. Vladamir Guerrero – Vlad may have had a down year last season, but that down mark still consisted of a top 15 mark in fantasy points per at bat. It may be ridiculous to think this, because he’s been declining, but I expect a better season from Vlad in ’09- and for the first time he won’t be overvalued by a couple rounds. (Fantasy Upside: .329, 33HRs, 129RBI, 10SB – Downside: .303, 27HRs, 91RBI, 2SB)

15. Carl Crawford – I almost promise that Carl Crawford will be undervalued, which will be quite different from the last couple seasons – but if you watched the playoffs last season, sporting a healthy Carl Crawford, then you understand why I put him here. His upside is higher than anyone on this list – sans maybe his outfield mate.

16. B.J. Upton – Upton is a stud. He mashed in the playoffs, having one of the best post-seasons in some time. B.J. had an injury that cut into his 2008 power, but I think his career numbers will be closer to those in 2007 than ’08. I like his upside risk. (Fantasy Upside: Not yet reached, but… .300, 32HRs, 95RBI, 40SB – Downside: .273, 15 HRs, 75 RBI, 29 SB)

17. Johnny Damon – Johnny Damon is almost guaranteed to be undervalued headed into ’09. Right now ESPN has him ranked 20th – but he’s got a chance to be magic. That lineup and team is chalked full of talent, and Tex is likely to bat about 50 points higher than Giambi did last season, that’s going to be about 20 more runs for Damon right there. (Fantasy Upside: .316, 20HRs, 94 RBI, 31 SB – Downside: .275, 12HRs, 65 RBI, 18 SB)

18. Curtis Granderson – The Tiger power train that was supposed to arrive in ’08 will likely show up in ’09. A full season of health should keep Granderson in the Top 20. (Fantasy Upside: .302, 23HRs, 74 RBI, 26 SB – Downside: .270, 19HRs, 66 RBI, 10 SB)

19. Vernon Wells – Vernon Wells is an interesting case. The guy only had 427 at bats in ’08 (injury) and he still rocked 20 bombs with 78 RBI. In 2007 he had 16 HRs and 80 RBI in 584 at bats. ’08 suggests that you should expect more of Vernon’s 2006, 2003, and 2002 numbers – that would make him a great pick as the 19th OF taken – however, there’s always those other years…. (Fantasy Upside: .317, 33HRs, 117 RBI, 17 SB – Downside: .275, 16HRs, 72 RBI, 4 SB)

Tier 5

20. Alex Rios – The upside vs. normal production pick. Everyone sees it in Alex, will he get it? (Fantasy Upside: Not yet reached but… .305, 30HRs, 100RBI, 32 SB – Downside: .291, 15HRs, 79RBI, 15SB)

21. Magglio Ordonez – Always a chance to absolutely mash. (Fantasy Upside: .360, 35HRs, 139 RBI, 6 SB – Downside: .298, 21HRs, 103RBI, 1SB – or hurt I guess, but just twice in the last 11 seasons)

22. Ichiro Suzuki – Never less than 100 runs as a MLB player.  (Fantasy Upside: .372, 13HRs, 68 RBI, 45 SB – Downside: .310, 6 HRs, 42 RBI, 33 SB)

23. Jay Bruce – In just over 400 at bats, Bruce mashed 21 HRs with 52 RBI in 2008. Will he exceed all previous numbers in a full 2009? Yeah, I think so. (Fantasy Upside: .280, 33HRs, 85RBI, 10SB – Downside: .255, 25HRs, 65RBI, 5SB)

24. Corey Hart – Hart may look like a caveman, and a very close relative to those Geico clowns, but he can do it all on the baseball field. As a 6’6″ monster Hart is a base stealer, a triple hitter, a HR guy, and has managed at least 80RBI in each of his first full seasons. He didn’t hit as well last season, but every guy has a down year, and Hart’s tools are obvious. If he can up his walks and down his Ks, by taking some time to recognize a pitch, he’s in. (Fantasy Upside: .295, 29HRs, 100RBI, 23SB – Downside: .270, 22HRs, 88RBI, 19SB)

25. Andre Eithier – This kid has one of the prettiest swings in baseball, and that has a little to do with me expecting bigger things from him. There’s not much wasted action in his bat, and he hangs in the zone like Doug and freaking Mark (Local radio show drop). If Manny comes back he’ll be even better, but even without Ram, Andre’s .305 BA, 20HRs, and 77RBI are all bench marks for the season and I expect them to be exceeded. He’s just 26 and coming in on his prime. (Fantasy Upside: .315, 27HRs, 105RBI, 6SB – Downside: .300, 20HRs, 80RBI, 2SB)

26. Ryan Ludwick – Ludwick was out of his norm last year, no doubt about that, but then again, playing consistently in the MFL is out of Ryan’s norm for his career. It was his first MLB season with more than 303 at bats. IN 2007, with just 303 at bats it’s not like he was powerless, he hit 14HRs and 52RBI with a .267 average. He’s just 30 and he has some quality hitters to bat in. He may be a one year wonder, you can never really know, but his consistency throughout last season predicts a solid ’09 campaign. (Fantasy Upside: .299, 37HRs, 115RBI, 6SB – Downside .265, 24HRs, 88RBI, 4SB)

Tier 6

20. Nelson Cruz – Love this kid.

21. Matt Kemp – Great upside, lots of strikeouts.

22. Adam Dunn – Low average, high strikeouts, monster power.

23. Justin Upton – Amazing talent.

24. Chris Young – See above.

25. Shane Victorino – Consistent player will score lots in Philly.

25. Xavier Nady – If he stays in New York and plays daily, he’ll be a freaking steal.

26. Cameron Maybin – Will be overhyped a bit, doubt he’ll bat .500 in 2009.

27. Jacoby Ellsbury – Also a bit overhyped, struggled in the 2nd half, but great tools in a good lineup.

28. Jeff Francoeur – I’m thinking Jeff is still the guy we thought he was.

29. Pat Burrell – Power is there, but for how much longer?

30. Denard Span – This kid was great in ’08.