Fantasy Baseball Surprises
I know we are in the depths of March Madness, but since I have my first of two fantasy baseball drafts tomorrow, I figured I would throw down some guys to watch at every position. Some of these guys won’t be major surprises, especially to my fellow baseball/fantasy nerds. But if you’re a casual fantasy player or fan, maybe some of this info can help you in your draft or the next time you’re having a baseball conversation with a sports doofus like myself.
—First Base: James Loney, LA Dodgers–Loney was called up to the big club in June last year and immediately proved to be one of the best hitters on the team. After hitting just one homer in the minor leagues, Loney hit 15 in just 344 at-bats with the Dodgers last year while batting .331. Why the sudden boost in power? Steroids, obviously. Well, I can’t prove that…….maybe he’s corking his bat. But I’d rather have a cheater on my team that tearing it up for my opponents. You’d probably be able to get Loney relatively late in mixed-league drafts.
—Second Base: Alexei Ramirez, White Sox–I’m sure some of youa re saying “Hey HHY, you’re picking a White Sox player, huh? What a shock, you perverted homer.” And you’d be correct in every part of that quote. But still, things are aligning perfectly for the recent signee from Cuba to not only win the job but have a solid year at a thin fantasy position. Juan Uribe is definitely on his way out with the Sox (finally), and last year’s surprise Danny Richar broke his ribs this week and will be out up to six weeks. Ramirez has looked great in the spring, and he could provide solid average and speed in a potent offensive lineup.
—Shortstop: Stephen Drew, Arizona: Shortstop is a ridiculously deep position, and even if you don’t get one of the big three (Reyes, Ramirez, Rollins), there are five or six other guys you could be very happy with. But if you want to take a late-round flyer on a guy, Drew would be a solid pick. He only hit .238/12/60 in his first full year in 2007, but he blew up in the postseason, especially against the Cubs. I’m thinking that boost to confidence could help him become a premier offensive shortstop. However, he is a Drew, so he could end up missing the next four years with a bruised vagina.
—Third Base: Pedro Feliz, Philadelphia–The 32-year old Feliz is a consistent, if unspectacular, player with multi-position eligibility. He’s usually one of the guys who bounces between the waiver wire and people’s teams all year. A fantasy whore, if you will. But a change of scenery to Philly could provide huge boosts for Feliz, who has averaged 21 homers and 84 runs batted in the last three years in a horrible hitters park. Hitting in the Phillies’ lineup and in that park could make Feliz a legitimate 30/100 guy.
—Catcher: JR Towles, Houston–Towles was a September call-up for the Astros last year, and impressed enough to win the job heading into 2008. Combining his stats from the minors and majors last year, Towles hit .325/12/63. He’s a right-handed hitter playing in a park where I could hit it out to left field. If you draft two catchers, take a chance on Towles.
—Outfield: Lastings Milledge, Washington–Baseball people know all about Milledge, one of the Mets’ top prospects for the last few years. This offseason, he was dealt to the Nationals. With the pressure of becoming the next Willie Mays in New York off of Lastings, he could blossom. He’s got speed, good power potential, and might hit around .280 or higher.
—Starting Pitcher: Matt Garza, Tampa Bay–The 24-year old right hander moves to Tampa this year as part of the Delmon Young trade. In two seasons with the Twins, Garza went 8-13 with a 4.47 ERA and 105 strikeouts in 133 innings. Not exactly great numbers. But Garza was consistently ripped at the hitting-friendly Metrodome, while posting a 2.49 ERA on the road. Change of scenery plus no more games at the Metrodome equals a breakout season for Garza.
—Closer: Trevor Hoffman, San Diego–How can the 40-year old all-time leader in saves be a sleeper? Well, Hoffman is being projected anywhere between the 9th and 16th best closer out there, and I think that any guy who has been as consistent as Hoffman over the past 15 years should be a top 7 or 8 closer, easily. Despite his penchant for choking in key moments like a 19-year old runaway in her first face-fucking themed porno, Hoffman is always good for 40-plus saves and a WHIP around 1.00.