ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Fantasy Draft Special Comprehensively Prepares Fans for 2009 Season
ESPN’s Baseball Tonight Fantasy Draft Special recently prepared fans with comprehensive analysis including: strategies heading into the draft, projections of breakout players, tactics to apply when drafting Alex Rodriguez and other injury risks; and bold predictions. Hosted by Karl Ravech with Matthew Berry, ESPN fantasy sports analyst, Eric Karabell, ESPN senior fantasy sports writer, and Buster Olney, ESPN The Magazine senior writer, the one-hour show will re-air tomorrow, Saturday, March 28, at 7:30 p.m. ET and Saturday, April 4, at 9 p.m. ET (both on ESPN). ESPN.com’s Fantasy Baseball is free, with site contents including an extensive draft kit.
(Matthew Berry provides a key fantasy tip — click above image for video)
Following are excerpts from the show.
Berry – “This year, more than ever, I feel like you can avoid the one-category studs and go for guys that contribute in multiple categories. You no longer have to chase the Ryan Howards’ or the Willy Taveras’ of the world. You can get guys like Grady Sizemore. He was at 30-30 last year. And, by the way, it’s not just guys that get steals and home runs early on. It’s taking Matt Kemp over Manny (Ramirez); Alex Rios over Vlad Guerrero; Jayson Werth instead of Pat Burrell…go with a guy like Mark Ellis, who had double-digit stolen bases last year for your middle infield spot, as opposed to a guy that’s just one category.”
Karabell – “You want to get guys who play positions like shortstop, second base, catcher, even outfield. Jimmy Rollins (is) a first-round pick for me because you know he’s going to steal a lot of bases and he might even get back to 25 or 30 home runs. This guy is a definite first-round pick because he plays a position that is not terribly deep. The No. 4 shortstop, a long way away, is Derek Jeter about 40 picks later. You want to make sure you get some guys early that can hit for power, speed, and certainly play positions that aren’t that deep.”
Berry – “Eric mentioned position scarcity with middle infield. Outfield is another one. In the ESPN.com standard game, we play five outfielders, so you need outfielders early. It’s actually a fairly shallow position. You can wait on starting pitching this year. There’s a lot of good guys in that mid-level – Chris Carpenter, Adam Wainwright, Erik Bedard, guys that have fallen because of different things (also Aaron Harang) – and, one other thing, you never pay for saves. You can wait on closers…you look at guys like Brian Wilson. Think about guys like Brian Fuentes last year, who started the year as Manny Corpas’ setup guy. Ryan Franklin got 17 saves last year. You can always find saves on the waiver wire.”
Karabell – “I think it is more important (what you do) in round two. Everybody in round one is good. Round two, you can make mistakes. You can lose your draft. I want to get a guy who is going to hit for a lot of power in round two.”
ESPN.com top 10 overall players: 1) Hanley Ramirez; 2) Albert Pujols; 3) David Wright; 4) Jose Reyes; 5) Ryan Braun; 6) Grady Sizemore; 7) Miguel Cabrera; 8) Johan Santana; 9) Jimmy Rollins; 10) Mark Teixeira.
ESPN.com top three pitchers on the rise: 1) Max Scherzer, Diamondbacks; 2) Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; 3) David Price, Rays.
Miguel Cabrera as Rising First-Round Pick:
Berry – “I love Miguel Cabrera this year. I have him at No. 5 on my own personal rankings. Last year, he started out slow with the switch to the American League, but look at what he did in the second half…career highs for home runs and RBIs.
“Cabrera could win the Triple Crown this year. By the end of the year, it’s very possible that Miguel Cabrera finishes No. 1 one on the ESPN.com player rater.”
Breakout Player – Carl Crawford:
Olney – “He’s absolutely motivated, (after) the lowest batting average since his rookie year. He was hurt, so during the off-season he changed his workout regimen…he went to work out outside. He said he wanted to help his legs, but he’s also very strong. You wonder if this will be the year when he finally hits home runs. He’s never had more than 18; never had more than a .482 slugging percentage. You know he’s going to run a lot more. He’s a guy who could take it to the next level this year.”
Most Overrated Fantasy Player – Francisco Rodriguez:
Karabell – “He might be the most overrated player in fantasy baseball – 62 saves (last year); we project 42 this year – and, remember, (there’s) a short leash because J.J. Putz is sitting right behind him. If K-Rod blows a couple saves, here comes Putz.”
Draft Approach to Alex Rodriguez:
(ESPN.com projected stats – .304 batting average, 33 HR, 97 RBI)
Berry – What you do with A-Rod is one of the big questions this year. He’s currently going towards the end of the third round. I’m not touching him until the fifth…this is a guy who’s hit 35 home runs two out of the last three years. Will he steal as much with the hip?…because a lot of his fantasy value comes from that hip.”
Karabell – “When I look at A-Rod, I see a guy that we project for 33 home runs and 97 RBI in only four months which means I have two other months where I can just pick up Alex Gordon or Melvin Mora off of free agency and I get their stats as well.”
Additional Injury Risks
Berry – “I won’t ever take an injury-risk player, especially early on. A guy like Ian Kinsler is fantastic, but in three major league seasons Kinsler has not played in more than 130 games…I like safe early on. Take the riskier guys later on in the draft.”
Karabell – “I will never draft Rich Harden, because he misses way too many games. He’s averaged 17 starts over a six-year career. The numbers will be good when he’s out there, but to get him you have to pick him among the top 25 starting pitchers and that’s not worth it to me, especially in a league where you only have three bench spots.”
Olney – “Another guy who is an injury risk this year is Joe Mauer. The bottom line is the Twins do not know exactly when he’s going to be available. He’s got inflammation in his lower back. He keeps on trying to get it out of there. He’s getting anti-inflammatory medication. It hasn’t happened so far. They’re frustrated. He’s frustrated. They don’t know when he’s going to be back.”
Berry – “J.D. Drew, I’ve never owned and never will. J.D. Drew’s never hit more than 20 home runs with the Red Sox. He’s only hit more than 20 home runs twice in his career. J.D. Drew is a guy who is all name and no production.”
Olney – “Matt Wieters is not going to be in the big leagues for the Orioles probably until some time in June because he’s a Scott Boras client, so they are going to be leery of bringing him up too soon…and yet, I think by season’s end he’ll be the second-best offensive catcher in the American League behind Victor Martinez. He is a can’t-miss player, all the way around.”
Berry – “Elijah Dukes goes 25/25. Last year, he played half a season – 81 games, 276 at bats. And, in that half a season – 13 home runs, 13 stolen bases, 44 RBIs, 48 runs, hit .264. He’s only 25 (years old). He’s had off-the-field problems, but…if he can keep his head on straight and keep on the field, the skill set is there for a 25/25 season.”
Karabell – “When I look at Alexei Ramirez, I see a young Alfonso Soriano. He’s going to have double eligibility at second and short – 21 home runs last year; 14 of them came after the All-Star break and he has speed. I’m not saying he’s going to steal 40 bases like Soriano, but 25/25, I think it is definitely coming. This is an up-and-coming hitter in the middle of a lineup. If you can get him outside the top 50 – wow. That’s a great spot to get him.”