Friday, January 23, 2009

White Flash! Your ECB Keeper Preview

Lost is gonna do it, folks. It's going to center the rest of the series around horribly contrived time travel storylines that make no scientific sense whatsoever even though they will go to great pains to try and explain them the exact way that a real scientist would. AND IT'S GOING TO ACTUALLY WORK! AWESOMELY! Thank god.

In that spirit, I hope everyone read all those juicy KFS blog entries from the past 7 months before the "island" "moved". They were really quite "something".

With another Compton title out of the CFA in the books and yet another season of SBL chugging along like the opposite of a train, it's clearly time to look ahead to the old ball game. About two months from now, at least 6 or 7 owners will convene at their computers instead of doing something awesome in person to put together their squadrons for the (believe it or not) 9th season of Elm City Baseball. In an effort to forget about Baron Davis, Rudy Gay, Chris Kaman, et the rest, let's take a refreshing glance at all 8 ECB teams' keeper situations.

Mos def - David Wright, Jason Bay, Brandon Webb
Decision time - Derrek Lee, Magglio Ordonez, Alfonso Soriano
No Bob, no - Travis Hafner

A full season in the Sox lineup at Fenway should keep Bay in the hunt for top outfielder status, while Wright is a shoe-in at the thin but improving hot corner spot. Webb will no doubt anchor the Squatter staff all 21 regular season weeks, even if he is forced to play centerfield on opening day, falls into the swimming pool and is sucked into the drain thingy like that kid whose scarred torso was plastered all over the other day with no warning. Thanks, trusted news organization!

Ordonez was a steady point producer last year in the wake of his off-the-charts 2007 season and will probably make the squad. The last spot should come down to a couple of North Siders in Lee and Soriano. With 2/3 of his outfield shored up, expect Bob to go with Derrek Lee at 1B.

Not at first base under any circumstances should be the awful Travis Hafner, who was given a second chance last year at this time after an anemic '07 and was somehow twice as bad. A non-protected Pronk might not be picked until the very late rounds, if at all.

Potential Keeper Grade - C-plus

Mos def - Prince Fielder, Grady Sizemore, Matt Holliday
Decision time - Chipper Jones, Garrett Atkins, Adam Dunn, Michael Young
King of Pain - Felix Hernandez

Baltimore's big shakeup came last year, trading Evan Longoria and Johan Santana for Holliday and Hernandez. The ex-Jays are almost certain keepers on any team heading into '08, while only Holliday looks to make the new Jays roster. Joining the new Oakland A will most likely be the slugging Fielder and the all-around superstar Sizemore. All three players are likely candidates to top the 4 PPG mark and be the best at their positions.

On the fence for Grashow are a number of above average talents. Garrett Atkins has the least notoriety but probably the most upside here, due to his position and home park. Behind him are Jones and Dunn, both with major question marks. For the aging Chipper, can Baltimore get anything close to a repeat of 2008, only with more games played? For Dunn, it's where he'll end up playing. Michael Young is only included because he might be eligible at every IF position after the first month of the season and Baltimore just can't let go of him. In reality, he kind of blows now.

And what of Felix Hernandez, the tanatlizing righty on the worst team in the majors? When healthy, he's a near lock for 7+ innings and 8+ Ks every time out. But until we wise up and stop giving points for wins, Felix just isn't keeper material at this point. Unlike, say, Johan Santana. Trust me, Jon. This will be the most frustrating fantasy player you'll ever own. You will constantly try and trade him. And it won't never ever not work.

Potential Keeper Grade - B-minus

Mos def - Ryan Howard, Justin Morneau, Carlos Quentin
Decision time - Lance Berkman, Carlos Beltran, Jay Bruce, Hunter Pence, Cole Hamels, Carlos Zambrano
I'd Do It - Chris Davis

Bonus points for 2007 Package Series Champion Owner Steve Adler (the Marisa Tomei/Mira Sorvino of KFS) and JB for making, gasp, an OFFSEASON TRADE! Unfortunately for young Steven, this one looks one-sided as all getout. And believe me, I know from one-sided trades involving unwanted pinstripers. Where Mark Teixiera once stood is now occupied by Carlos Quentin, and so even if nobody in the world will expect Quentin to duplicate his surprising 2008 stats, Adler pretty much has to keep him. He's probably among Chicago's top 5 players, so it's not terribly egregious. But at a glance, this has the potential to backfire.

By the way, Angel Berroa's on the Yankees now. Full. Circle

On the other hand, the Tiger Army is still loaded at first base, with Howard and Morneau locks to stick with the team and 1B-eligible Lance Berkman also in the running. The other candidates at the plate are all outfielders, in the young Jay Bruce and Hunter Pence and the steady Carlos Beltran. Pence suffered through a bit of a sophomore slump last season. And he doesn't play for the Reds, who are Emily's favorite team, and we all know Emily runs the show. Also, his last name isn't freaking BRUCE. So fuck him.

With at most one spot remaining, Adler may have his choice of fireballers on the mound. Philly hero Cole Hamels is probably a safer choice than the up-and-down Zambrano. Here's my prediction: He'll go with zzzzzzzzz.....

Sorry, fell asleep there talking about Adler's team. Happens to everyone. That was in no way a tip of the hat in Zambrano's direction.

Potential Keeper Grade - B-

Mos def - Joe Mauer, C.C. Sabathia
Decision time - Dustin Pedroia, Ian Kinsler, Carlos Lee, Brad Hawpe, Jake Peavy
Seriously, get out of the league - Derek Jeter

Here's a team that needs to draft really well at the top this year. The Menace appear to have the most holes heading into the season, with no true hitting superstars to speak of. Joe Mauer was the lone survivor to emerge from the Great Catcher Hoarding of 2008, and he will undoubtedly be carried over into 2009. Sure it'll be 2 or 3 years before he gets to Boston or New York so that his stats can really take off. But in the meantime, this is a guaranteed 2.5-4.0 PPG. Book it.

The rest of the hitters are tough to predict. The two most consistent bats all year long were Pedroia and Kinsler. Will their shared position split them apart, or does keeping them both make even more sense due to 2B scarcity? Yes. One of those. Two outfielders will also vie for a spot on the team in El Caballo and El Hawpemeister. -Ooski. -Von Hawpe. -ernator. Seeing no Rockies experts in our midst, I vote Carlos Lee.

One interesting option Watterson has is on the mound, where stone cold lock Sabathia could be paired with Jake Peavy to form the league's best pitching duo before the draft. If Peavy stays in San Diego, his ceiling remains as high as any ace in the game and Marshall St. could roll out an automatic 40-50 points per week with those two players.

OR! Minka Kelly's boyfriend could play shortstop once again and rule us all. With the addition of Range Factor well down our ECB priority list, this is totally plausible.

Potential Keeper Grade - C

Mos def - Mark Teixeira, Hanley Ramirez, Tim Lincecum
Decision time - Adrian Gonzalez, Dan Uggla, Jimmy Rollins, Nick Markakis, Roy Halladay
Dead? - Vlad Guerrero

Now we're talking. While the strength of the 2008 Macks was their pitching rotation, they have plenty of power at the dish to contend again regardless of how the draft falls. Teixeira comes to Denver with career-year potential at the not-as-deep-as-it-used-to-be 1B slot. Ramirez is the top SS on most draft boards and could always add OF eligibility at some point in the near future.

Joining them will most likely be another SS in Jimmy Rollins, giving Mile High flexibility up the middle. Rollins' potential probably lies somewhere in between his MVP season of 2 years ago and last year's up-and-down campaign. From there, JB can choose to sew up all 3 MI slots before the draft even starts by retaining Dan Uggla, the quietly productive fantasy 2B. I recently read on of those cherry-picker type stats where the list of all the second basemen in MLB history to score at least 104 runs, hit at least 24 home runs, and drive in at least 88.235 RBIs in each of his first three seasons looks like this:

1. Dan Uggla

All this in a division littered with crappy hitters parks. He's a darkhorse still, but don't be shocked. Other options include other underrated superstars Nick Markakis and Adrian Gonzalez, the batting film of whom JB undoubtedly watches as he falls asleep every night.

On the mound, I expect the insanely cool Lincecum to be the keeper choice here. Roy Halladay is a bygawdhoss, but Timmay's strikeout potential gives him the slight edge. He may, in fact, strike out 28 Diamondbacks in one game this year. 31 if Adam Dunn comes back.

And we haven't even discussed Guerrero, who's pretty much the team mascot at this point. His downward trend makes him expendable, even if you can still count on solid stats, as everyone in our league loves to draft for upside only. Suckers.

Potential Keeper Grade - B-plus

Mos def - Kevin Youkilis, Carlos Pena, Carl Crawford, Brian McCann, Aramis Ramirez, Ichiro
Decision time - Wait, that list goes here
This would be way funner - Jonathan Papelbon. Just Jonathan Papelbon.

Did someone say rebuilding time? The list of potential keepers for Jeff's T-Cones reads like the list of players up for fan voting into the last roster spot of the All-Star team. They're good. Above average, even. But there's no fantasy stud to speak of. Scarily enough, Youkilis was the closest thing in '08, putting up Teixeria-like numbers (Random comparison there. No reason for it whatsoever. No sir.) and challenging for the top spot among 1Bs all season long. He's probably the safest bet. Pena and Crawford come next, as the Tampa Bay lineup will provide plenty of scoring opportunities. Yikes. Did that just happen?

The time of Ichiro has probably passed, as it's now clear that he cannot "hit a home run whenever he wanted to - he just doesn't want to". I mean, really. He should want to. WANT TOOOOO! Sorry. I'm thinking Brian McCann might make the squad. He'd be one of my picks and here would be my reasoning:

"Good, now I don't have to prerank catchers."

So yeah, throw these guys in a hat and pick 5 names. And if it comes out with 5 closers, well, that may not be the worst thing in the world. Jeff would only then have to draft 5 more before actually looking at a hitter or two.

Potential Keeper Grade - D-plus

Mos def - I'm not telling you shit. I learned from the Patriots that secrecy is the first step to success.
Decision time - What did I just say?
OK, fine - Miguel Cabrera, Chase Utley, Evan Longoria, Ryan Braun, Johan Santana

Let's just not draft this year. Play with what you got.

Potential Keeper Grade (before Utley starts playing) - A
Potential Keeper Grade (when Utley returns) - Z-minus (on a looping alphabet curve)

Mos def - Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Alex Rodriguez,
Decision time - Manny Ramirez, David Ortiz, BJ Upton, Josh Hamilton
Show some sack! - Ryan Ludwick, Geovany Soto

Could it be? Only one first baseman on the Pimp Rooster keeper list? The decisions made here could impact the first round of the draft more than any other team, with KFS favorites Ramirez and Ortiz twisting in the wind. The prediciton here is that Manny stays, no matter what MLB team he ends up with. He will then grow a beard. On his foot or something. BECAUSE HE'S A CRAZY RETARDWHO CAN HIT!

The first-string Woosta infield is practically set, with Pujols, Reyes, and A-Rod back for their 58th consecutive tour of duty, and 2B BJ Upton another strong possibility. From there, it's a tough choice for Rich between the lovable teddy bear, the Large Father, the Dominican Daddy, the David Ortiz... and that guy who did drugs and did really well for half a season in an awesome hitters park. Not sure where I lean on this one.

But come on, Rice. Mix it up. You've got the next Mike Piazza behind the plate in Soto. You could keep him and not worry about when to draft Josh Bard. Or how about Ryan Ludwick? He gets every single point that Pujols gets. That's like Warner to Holt!

Ah screw it, you're going to luck into every right decision for the first 10 rounds of the draft anyway. Don't even keep anyone. That's your last KFS frontier, really. I mean Christ. DeAngelo Williams?

Potential Keeper Grade - B-plus