Friday, February 17, 2012

Fantasy Baseball: My Sleeper Picks For 2012!

I'm an avid player of fantasy baseball and every year I like to focus on potential sleepers and younger players who can make an immediate impact. I only have a few rules I like to follow when I play fantasy baseball.
  • First pick is always best available player. (Pitcher or position player)
  • Draft scarce positions first. (SS/3B/2B)
  • Never pay for saves! (Look for sleeper closers or work the waiver wire) 
My rules aren't really "groundbreaking", but it's given me pretty solid results. So, now that's out of the way, let's get to my sleeper picks!

Position Players
  • Ike Davis: I don't consider Ike Davis as a "sleeper" in terms of production, but because he's coming off a major ankle injury that cost him most of last season. I put Davis right up with Eric Hosmer, the only difference is Ike Davis won't cost you an early round pick. Before his injury last season, Davis was putting together a ridiculous season with a .302/.383/.543 slash line. Sure, that's probably not sustainable judging by his .344 BABIP, but it's pretty much on level with his career averages. If healthy, you can get Eric Hosmer production much later on in the draft. His injury concerns wouldn't make him my only 1B, but take him later on and you could be rewarded. 

  • Yunel Escobar: After having a rough 2010, Yunel Escobar rebounded to have a very nice 2011 season. He won't give you much in terms of power, but the potential is there and playing at Rogers Centre will help him. He's a gap hitter and should net close to 30 doubles next season. He has excellent plate discipline and he's pretty much 1:1 in terms of his K/BB ratio. When you consider the SS position, you only have a few "elite" players. I think Escobar is on the fringe of being an "elite" SS, but his power may limit him. Far too often in my drafts I see Elvis Andrus and Alcides Escobar going ahead of Yunel Escobar and it has to be on popularity alone. If you need a late round SS that can put up solid numbers, Yunel Escobar is your player. His latest Bill James projection has him putting up a .284/.364/.396 slash line and I'd take that any day of the week from a fantasy SS.

    • Jason Heyward: An injury filled 2011 tarnished Heyward's fantasy value in 2012, but reports indicate he's healthy and he's made appropriate adjustments to his swing. I think a lot of the luster that Heyward once had is now gone and many people will kind of "forget" about him so to speak. In my mock drafts, I was able to get Heyward anywhere from round(s) 9-12. You know what Jason Heyward brings to the table, good power, good line drive rate, high .OBP, etc. Like Ike Davis, I only consider Heyward a "sleeper" because of his injury last season and not because of his talent level. 

    • J.D. Martinez: I think Martinez has a great chance at rewarding fantasy owners in 2012. I've kept an eye on Martinez since 2010, when my friend got his rookie card in a box of Bowman prospect cards. I know that's an odd reason to follow a player, but his stats seemed pretty decent and I was intrigued. Bill James projects a .297/.353/.458 slash line from Martinez in 2012 and that's pretty amazing for a guy most people haven't heard of (outside of Astro fans). Yes, those are projections, but he's going to be given every chance to prove himself as a MLB starter in 2012. You could take him very late in the draft, or work the waiver wire and pick him if lives up to that projection.
    • Some other position players to keep an eye on: Devin Mesoraco, Yonder Alonso, Tyler Pastornicky, Ben Revere, Martin Prado, Chase Headley, Anthony Rizzo, Jason Kipnis. 

      • Addison Reed: I think Addison Reed should and will get a crack at being the closer for the White Sox at some point in 2012. This could work it's self out in Spring Training, but it could come down to Matt Thornton and Addison Reed. The White Sox will possibly move Thornton around the All-Star break and that would open the door for Reed. Throughout his career he has averaged around 13 K/9 and maintained a BB/9 under 2 which is pretty  remarkable for a young, power pitcher. Monitor the situation in Chicago, and don't hesitate to pick up Addison Reed if and when he becomes the closer. 

      • Kenley Jansen: I think Jansen should win the Dodgers closer position over Javy Guerra, and I think he's going to be a fantastic closer. Last season, he posted 16.10 K/9 in 53.2 IP and he should only build upon that in 2012 (maybe not 16+ K/9, but his stuff is very nasty). If you need saves and you don't want to "pay" for a closer, keep an eye on Kenley Jansen. 

      • Cory Luebke: After putting together a solid in 2011, Luebke is one of my favorite LHP options available in 2012. Last season, he went 6-10 with a 3.09 ERA and 9.82 K/9 and an 2.93 FIP and 3.02 xFIP. He split time as a reliever, but his numbers didn't take a hit either way. Bill James projects Luebke to 13-7 2.88 ERA (3.30 FIP) 168 K (8.49 K/9). Those are very nice numbers for a guy most people have probably never heard of (outside of Padre fans). If you need strikeouts or just solid pitching stats, keep tabs on Cory Luebke. 

      •  Other potential sleeper pitchers: Drew Pomeranz, Homer Bailey, Bud Norris, James McDonald, Andrew Cashner, Brandon Morrow, Randall Delgado, Mike Minor, Chris Sale. 

      Thanks for reading and good luck in your fantasy league in 2012! 

      Tuesday, February 7, 2012

      College Baseball: Why All MLB Fans Should Take Notice

      (Foley Field, home of the Georgia Bulldogs)

      Throughout the years college baseball has been growing not only with college sports fans, but also fans of Major League Baseball. It's been an interesting transition, but it's not a surprising one. Not too long along ago information about college baseball players wasn't the easiest to come across, but that's not the case anymore.

      Baseball, now more than ever, is a game of prospects. Scouting reports and information about amateur players used to be reserved for people on the "inside", but now any fan can type in a high school player or college player's name into a search engine and they can also feel like a scout or an insider as well. College baseball is becoming more prominent of late because of all the talented college players that are being drafted and developed. Just look over the past few years, you have: Stephen Strasburg, Danny Hultzen, Anthony Rendon, David Price, Mikie Mahtook, Trevor Bauer, Gerrit Cole, Buster Posey, Bryce Harper, Drew Pomeranz, and many more. College baseball is producing more and more MLB ready players. Unlike high school players, these players are competing in major conferences against other top prospects. In high school, it's hard to say this unless you live in a state like California, Texas, Florida, or Georgia. In college, you can be from any state and you can showcase your talents against the best of the best every weekend (assuming you play in a "power conference"). I understand that they're no guarantees with any prospect, high school or college, but it's becoming more evident to me that high college draft picks are becoming "safer" picks versus their high counterparts.

      A major complaint many fans have towards college baseball is the "pinging" of the bats. They don't consider it to be real baseball. Well, the NCAA has made changes (click link for more info) to make the game less of a hitters paradise. This will cut down on "cheap" home runs and will also allow pitchers to actually pitch to their true ability instead of worrying about giving up home runs to a light hitting 2nd baseman. Sure, they aren't wooden bats, but this is as close it gets. Also, college players use wooden bats in summer leagues, and that should help determine their skills, even if it's a small sample size.

      College baseball is rapidly growing amongst fans of Major League Baseball and it's due in large part from the success of players like Stephen Strasburg, Evan Longoria, and Bryce Harper. Fans know from their success that top prospects are coming from the college ranks and they want to say they knew of them before they are popular. Yes, high school draft picks come with just as much hype and promise, but you have to wait upwards of 5 years before most of them are Major League ready, that's not always the case, but recent college picks have only been taking around 1-3 years to develop properly. In some cases, they can be ready after a short stint in the minors, a trip to the AFL, and an impressive Spring Training campaign.

      If you're a "true" baseball and you don't follow college baseball, you're doing a disservice to yourself.

      Thanks for reading!

      Monday, February 6, 2012

      My First Entry and A Little About Me:

      My first blog entry!

      For my first post I figured I would tell you all about myself!

      My name is Brandon and I'm a huge baseball fan. I enjoy not only watching the game, but I also like the scout players and learn more about the game through analytical stats. I'd like to think I know my fair share when it comes to the great game of baseball and I'm always open to new ideas or beliefs. I do have some "oldschool" beliefs, but my views on the game are with those of the modern society. I try my best to stay "unbiased", but sometimes it's hard to hide the fact that I'm a diehard Atlanta Braves fan.

      I've been a baseball fan my entire life, but I really started understanding the game when I was around the age of 9. I guess becoming a baseball fan in the late 90's wasn't the best time to become a fan. The game was filled with genetically enhanced players and games looked more like pinball, rather than an old fashioned game of baseball. Still, I got to witness both the Braves and Yankee dynasties of the 90's and that was an amazing experience. I know that wasn't the most glorious time to become a huge baseball fan, but those memories will stay with me for the rest of my life.

      With all that said, I hope you enjoy reading over my blog. I'll do my best to update it frequently with my ideas, thoughts, or just things I find fun about the game of baseball!

      Thank you for reading and I hope you enjoy my blog!