Saturday, 19 November 2011

Quality Starters: Top Ten Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitchers for the 2012 Season

There are two schools of thought when it comes to fantasy baseball starting pitchers. The first states that you should grab some quality starters early in your draft (or use keeper spots for holding onto them). The second theory states that starting pitchers are way too inconsistent and therefore you should ignore pitchers until late in your draft. The best strategy probably lies somewhere squarely in the middle of the two. Whichever approach you take when crafting your fantasy baseball roster, you will want to at least grab one of the following top tier fantasy baseball starting pitchers. After all, under standard 5x5 fantasy baseball rules, half of your statistical categories will be determined by your pitchers. 



1)     Roy Halladay (PHI)
The reason many fantasy owners forsake starting pitchers until the later rounds is due to the fact that pitchers can be wildly inconsistent from year-to-year. Then there is Halladay. He is the most consistent elite pitcher in the game. He is also the best in the business. Money in the bank.

2)     Cliff Lee (PHI)
If you can’t get Halladay, you don’t have to look very far for the second best fantasy baseball starting pitcher. Doc’s teammate Lee was possibly the best pitcher in the game after June 1st last season. A poor start to the season had some fantasy owners panicking early but with his peripherals in line, there was no real reason to doubt him. Expect another great season in 2011.

3)     Tim Lincecum (SF)
His 4 year LOW in strikeouts was the 220 he put up last season. Both his WHIP and ERA were better in 2011 over his 2010 numbers. With any run support at all, he could easily put up 20 wins. He’s a fantasy stud.

4)     Justin Verlander (DET)
Topping many experts’ lists for 2012, there is no doubt the Tigers ace had a monster season last year. However, he has traditionally struggled in April and last year was the first his ERA was below 3.37. The strikeouts have always been there and once he puts up back-to-back monster years, he’ll move up the list. For now, he’s just behind the big boys.

5)     Felix Hernandez (SEA)
So long as you temper your expectations in regard to Wins, “King Felix” is a good bet to deliver some great fantasy stats in 2012. His ERA rose by over run from 2010 partially due to a 40 point increase in BABIP as his xFIP remained steady. Seattle can’t be much worse than they were in 2011, so a few more Wins wouldn’t completely surprise. Get him.

6)     Clayton Kershaw (LA)
Deemed the best pitcher in the NL by the BBWAA in 2011, Kershaw has always had nasty stuff. His only issue in the past was his control. He cut a whopping 1.49 BB/9 off his numbers from 2010. Can he keep that control intact? Possibly. However, until we see it consistently, Kershaw falls just shy of the top of the list.

7)     C.C. Sabathia (NYY)
A free agent, where Sabathia ends up will affect his fantasy value. If he stays in the Bronx, the prolific Yankees offense will lead to another monster Win total (19, 21 and 19 over the past 3 seasons). If he lands elsewhere, expect him to continue to amass innings and strikeouts with his usual aplomb. He’s about as reliable as they come.

8)     Dan Haren (LAA)
Haren is reminiscent of Greg Maddux in the sense that he is about as exciting as a bowl of Jell-O, yet he continues to put up great stats year-in and year-out. Discounting the first half of 2010, Haren has been rock steady with his ERA and xFIP over the past 4 seasons. For some reason, he has never put up big Win totals despite amassing huge innings year after year. He’s very good but not quite elite.

9)     Jon Lester (BOS)
Picked by many to be a top 3 starting pitcher prior to 2011, Lester always seems to fall just short of the best in the business. He is yet to put up a season ERA under 3.00 and higher Win totals are expected from a pitcher with his stuff and Boston’s offensive punch backing him up. Draft him at the low end of the top ten starting pitchers and you’ll do just fine.

10) Madison Bumgarner (SF)
On June 21, 2011 Bumgarner faced the Minnesota Twins in an inter-league game and gave up 8 ER while retiring only 1 batter. It was one of the worst performances in fantasy baseball history. All young pitchers will take their lumps. Bumgarner rebounded to be one of the best control pitchers in the game in the second half last season (19 BB after the break). He’s primed to break out big time in 2012. Watch for it.

When considering fantasy baseball starting pitchers for 2012, if you are able to solidify your roster with one of these top ten pitchers, you will find the remaining depth at the position is favorable in building around your staff ace. Save taking chances for the later rounds and grab a keeper for the front end of your rotation and you’ll give yourself a better chance at locking up half of your 5x5 stats. Good luck in 2012!


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* Roy Halladay photo by SD Dirk on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "D7K_4966") [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Felix Hernandez photo by Mike Tigas on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Madison Bumgarner photo by X Wad (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Outfielders Choice: Top Ten Fantasy Baseball Outfielders for the 2012 Season

In most fantasy baseball seasons, the outfield is a prime source for all of your statistical needs. If you are in need of stolen bases, the league leaders were both outfielders. If you need power, 3 of the top 4 home run hitters in MLB were outfielders (counting Jose Bautista, who also qualifies at third base). The major league leader in RBI was an outfielder (Matt Kemp). It’s not too hard to determine that the outfield is one position you can count on to deliver key fantasy stats. With that in mind, let’s review the top ten fantasy baseball outfielders for 2012:


1)     Ryan Braun (MIL)

Not only did Braun’s HR total return to the +30 range, his 33 stolen bases almost equalled his previous 2 season totals combined. Extremely durable, Braun delivers in 5 fantasy categories. He is a pure fantasy stud.



2)     Matt Kemp (LAD)

Falling 1 HR shy of a 40-40 season, Kemp was perhaps the best player in fantasy baseball in 2011. Due mainly to a poor 2010 season, Kemp doesn’t yet have the consistency of Braun and thus is second on the list of outfielders. A bounce back in average and SB made Kemp a stud in 2011. Expect more of the same next year.



3)     Jacoby Ellsbury (BOS)

What a difference a year makes. Coming off a miserable, injury-riddled 2010 campaign, Ellsbury bounced back huge with an MVP-type season in 2011 adding power to his speed game. His power seemed to come out of nowhere but it is not completely unheard of for a player to add power to his game at 28 years old. Look for a dip in his 2012 HR total but he will still deliver a great fantasy performance.



4)     Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)

You may be shocked to find Ichiro so high on the list but I cannot help but to think this massive baseball talent has one monster season left in him. He is way too proud and his decline in numbers in 2011 will not sit well with him. With an 86% SB success rate last season, his speed game remains intact and a slight bump in power would not surprise. Worth the gamble.



5)     Justin Upton (ARI)

Staying healthy and playing more than 138 games (his previous season high prior to 2011) will be the key to ongoing success for the youngest Upton brother. The tools are there but 2012 will be an interesting season in his career. Expect a similar season to 2011.



6)     Carlos Gonzalez (COL)

Cargo has the talent to be the best fantasy player in the game. Health issues continue to plague him and make him too risky to be drafted higher than he is ranked here. Even in a monster 2010 campaign he missed 17 games. His numbers at Coors Field greatly affect his overall stats but as long as he continues to wear a Rockies jersey, you can take the massive home park stats to the bank.



7)     Matt Holliday (STL)

Last season proved that speed is no longer a weapon in Holliday’s arsenal. He can still be counted upon to deliver power and average but nagging injuries took their toll throughout 2011. He is clearly no longer the fantasy stud that he was in his Colorado heyday but he still has something to offer.



8)     Carl Crawford (BOS)

Players have bad years. It’s a fact of life. Just don’t expect players of Crawford’s talent level to have back-to-back poor seasons. Expect a rebound to the tune of .300, 15 HR and 40+ SB. A lot was made of his batting order position in 2011 but if he hits in the heart of the order, his RBI totals will increase as well. Consider 2011 a blip on the radar.



9)     Michael Bourn (ATL)

When you can find a player who totally dominates a particular category (in Bourn’s case, he has led the NL in SB for 3 straight years) you want to lock him up for your fantasy team. The problem with Bourn lies in the fact that if he fails to deliver stolen bases, he will be a fantasy bust. While this is true, hitting from the top of the Braves line up and not showing any signs of slowing down, Bourn is worth counting on to lead your fantasy team in the SB category again in 2012.



10) Curtis Granderson (NYY)

Sure he strikes out a lot and is inconsistent on the base paths but Granderson’s no longer hitting in the leadoff spot (as he did often in Detroit) and his swing is perfect for Yankee Stadium. Expect the big HR totals to continue as well as 20+ SB. Add to that the run production that comes from hitting in a potent line up and Granderson is fantasy baseball gold.



When considering fantasy baseball outfielders for 2012, there are many options to supply your roster with speed, power, average and run production. It is a good strategy to look to the outfield to fill in any statistical weaknesses not found in the rest of your roster. Good luck in 2012!

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*Ryan Braun photo by Steve Paluch on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "ryan-braun") [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
*Ichiro Suzuki photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
*Matt Holliday photo by Barbara moore (Flickr: Matt Holliday) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
*Curtis Granderson photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Curtis Granderson") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Stop Short: Top Ten Fantasy Baseball Shortstops for the 2012 Season

In many fantasy baseball circles, there exists the notion that shortstop is the shallowest of all positions. While this may have been true in past seasons, there is actually a decent number of quality shortstops available to add value to your fantasy baseball team in the 2012 season. As with other positions, there were early round picks who disappointed in 2011 (Hanley Ramirez) and there were some late round picks who delighted their fantasy owners with big seasons (J.J. Hardy). Of all the roster spots to consider, shortstop is the one position where injury concerns hang over the fantasy possibilities of the top players. Therefore, you do not need to use an early round draft pick on filling your shortstop position. There are several players down the list that will pay dividends for sure. However, for now, we concentrate on the top ten fantasy baseball shortstops for the 2012 season.
1)    Troy Tulowitski (COL)
If a player has one monster season, he is suddenly on everyone’s radar. A second straight campaign of big numbers and he’s a star. Three consecutive seasons of putting up huge statistical numbers and that player is an elite fantasy producer. At the shortstop position, that player is Tulowitski. The prospect of nagging injuries always seem to be hanging over Tulo’s head, but there is no other player in baseball more worth the risk.

2)    Asdrubal Cabrera (CLE)
After an injury-riddled 2010 campaign, Cabrera broke out big time last season. As a key part of a youthful Cleveland offense, Cabrera may take another step further in 2012. Like other top fantasy shortstops, injuries have been a concern. If he stays healthy, he may elevate himself to elite status next season.

3)    Hanley Ramirez (FLA)
Drafted in the top 5 in most fantasy leagues, Ramirez was a major bust for his owners in 2011. Injuries and inconsistency plagued him last season but looking back, his 2010 numbers were not exactly high-end elite. Considering also a rumoured move to third base and Ramirez has to be drafted with caution in 2012. 

4)    Starlin Castro (CHC)
Probably a year away from elite shortstop status, Castro has more upside than perhaps any other 21-year-old player in the game. His high average is not an empty .300, as he has consistently shown extra base power and has added an increased stolen base total to the mix. He’s a keeper.

5)    Jose Reyes (NYM)
Don’t let that batting title fool you into using an early round pick on Reyes, who benefitted from a high BABIP in 2011. He hasn’t played more than 133 games since 2008 and his days of 60+ stolen bases are behind him. Injuries are always a risk with Reyes making him a second tier choice at shortstop.

6)    Elvis Andrus (TEX)
Surprisingly consistent for a young (23 years old) player, Andrus can be counted on for 35 stolen bases. Power is not Andrus’ game (5 HR in 2011 after 0 in 2010) however, a marked jump in doubles may mean further power may develop (keep in mind his young age). There is no guarantee he’ll ever be a .300 hitter but you could certainly do worse than the number 2 hitter on a contending team.

7)    J.J. Hardy (BAL)
Hardy certainly made his fantasy owners happy in 2011. Ranked outside the top 25 in most pre-draft rankings entering last season, Hardy led all AL shortstops in HR with 30 (and tied Tulowitski for the MLB shortstop HR title). Much like his fantasy counterparts, health is the wild card for Hardy. He has struggled with injuries throughout his career and is always a risk to miss considerable amounts of time.

8)    Jimmy Rollins (PHI)
Indiana Jones said “It isn’t the years, it’s the mileage”. This holds true for Rollins who is an “old” 32 after spending years at a demanding position. A free agent in 2012, Rollins will get a sizable contract somewhere, just don’t expect sizable offensive statistics. His stolen base totals rebounded but diminished power and a poor batting average are not going to win you too many fantasy leagues.

9)    Erick Aybar (LAA)
After several seasons of mediocre offensive stats, Aybar is starting to show a little pop to go with his improved stolen base percentage. It is not unusual to see a jump in power numbers for players his age (he’ll turn 28 before the start of the 2012 season). After showing an increase in 2011 over his 2010 power statistics (10 HR vs. 5, 33 doubles vs. 18), Aybar has a little something to offer in 2012.

10)  Alexei Ramirez (CWS)
Ramirez put up his usual HR total in the mid teens (15) but his stolen bases fell off by half (13 SB in 2010, 7 in 2011). This was due to the fact that he only attempted 13 SB last season but may also indicate he has lost a step on the base paths. He is a lower-tier option at the position but won’t hurt you in any category.

When considering fantasy baseball shortstops for 2012, injuries seem to be the major concern for most of the key players. So long as you don’t draft a shortstop too high on draft day, you should come out with a respectable option who will deliver decent offensive statistics from the shortstop position on your 2012 fantasy roster.


* Troy Tulowitski photo by SD Dirk on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Troy Tulowitzki") [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
*Jose Reyes photo by alpineinc on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "Jose Reyes") [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Alexei Ramirez photo by Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as "00063398") [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Saturday, 5 November 2011

The Not So Hot Corner: Top Ten Fantasy Baseball Third Basemen for the 2012 Season


One strategy many fantasy baseball owners use when assembling their roster is to quickly ‘shore up’ a player at a shallow position. If you are a fantasy owner who likes to use this approach, you will want to consider grabbing (or keeping) a third baseman in 2012. Going into the 2011 season, there were approximately 5 or 6 fantasy third basemen who seemed to stand above their peers at the position. Those top players all disappointed last season, thus making a shallow position even scarcer. When it comes to top-notch, reliable fantasy baseball third basemen, you may want to act fast in 2012.

1)     Jose Bautista (TOR)
This is one example of a player being head and shoulders above the rest of the position. When it comes to fantasy baseball third basemen for the 2012 season, there is Bautista and then a drop off to the second tier. And it’s not close.

2)     Evan Longoria (TB)
After a tumultuous first month in 2011, Longoria took flight in the second half with an eye-popping 57 RBI after the All-Star break.  He also proved down the stretch that he is the engine that drives the Rays offense. His average and stolen bases dropped off in 2011. If they return, he’s an elite third base choice.

3)     Adrian Beltre (TEX)
He missed significant time due to injury and still hit 32 HR and 105 RBI. Hitting in the Seattle line up didn’t do his statistics any favors but with a strong offense like Boston or Texas around him, he’s proved that he can rake.

4)     David Wright (NYM)
Wright contributes in all 5 categories and that has always made him a fantasy stud. His struggles at his home ball park are well documented, but with the Met’s plan to move in the fences at Citi Field, Wright should continue contributing across the board.

5)     Alex Rodriguez (NYY)
The days of A-Rod being the best fantasy baseball third baseman (and top 10 overall pick) are coming to an end. However, if there is a player in the game who is capable of one more monster season, it’s him. Don’t write him off just yet. He may surprise a few people in 2012.

6)     Ryan Zimmerman (WAS)
After an amazing 2009 campaign, Zimmerman seemed to be on the path to super stardom. Injuries and inconsistency have blocked his path, however. Another down year in 2012 and 2009 will look to be more of a career year rather than a harbinger of things to come.

7)     Aramis Ramirez (CHC)
Likely done in Chicago, Ramirez will find himself in the middle of a batting order somewhere in 2012. After battling injuries in 2009-2010 and with his role uncertain in 2012, he is a bit of a risky play.

8)     Michael Young (TEX)
With Beltre firmly established at third base, Young will continue to get his at bats around the diamond. It didn’t matter where he played in 2011 as Young delivered an AL-leading 213 hits. The only concern is that he hit 30 points higher at Arlington than on the road (not mention 10 of his 11 HR coming at home). He’s worth the boost to your team batting average alone.

9)     Pablo Sandoval (SF)
Talk about a turn around. After a 2010 season that saw the ‘Kung Fu Panda’ relegated to the bench in the post-season, Sandoval showed up 30 pounds lighter and ready to go in 2011. The result was a resurgent offensive season which culminated with him hitting for the cycle on September 15th. Only a broken hamate bone in late April (which cost him over a month of the season) prevented him from putting up even better numbers last year.

10) Kevin Youkilis (BOS)
After a monster season in 2008, many considered Youkilis as an elite fantasy third baseman. However, injuries have made him way too risky for an early pick. Last year it was a sports hernia that kept him out of the line up. Proceed with caution.

When considering fantasy baseball third basemen for 2012, if you can’t get Bautista, consider the next 4 to be a ‘second tier’ of talent. While there are still players just outside of the top ten which can be of value (i.e. Mark Reynolds and Brett Lawrie), third base remains a relatively shallow position in 2011. If you are in a deep league, this is even more prevalent. Good luck in 2012!  


* Jose Bautista photo by Keith Allison (Flickr: Jose Bautista) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Alex Rodriguez photo by Keith Allison from Baltimore, USA (Alex Rodriguez) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Kevin Youkilis photo by Keith Allison [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons