Wednesday, 29 February 2012

Pen Pals: Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Relief Pitchers 2012


There is a popular notion among fantasy baseball owners which states, “Don’t Pay for Saves”. In other words, it can be a little risky using early round draft picks on selecting closers. The position is notably volatile and closers often come and go throughout any given season. If you subscribe to this theory, it may be in your best interest to consider some sleepers among relievers heading into your fantasy draft. Once the top few reliable pitchers are off the board, there are some relief pitchers who may provide good value in relation to where you should be able to get them in your draft.

Brett Myers (HOU)
In a somewhat surprise move, the Astros have named Myers as their closer for 2012. He makes a move from the starting rotation into the 9th inning role, one which he held briefly for the Phillies in 2007. Sure, Houston won’t win many games this year, but the ones they do will most likely be close games and that means Myers should get his fair share of save opportunities. His fastball has seen a drop in velocity over the past few seasons, but the move to the bullpen may actually help. Without the prospect of throwing 200 innings, he can go out there and give it a little more gas this year.

Kenley Jansen (LAD) –
Manager Don Mattingly has stated that he is going into camp expecting Javy Guerra to be his team’s closer. However, Jansen has the stuff to hold down the role, as his gaudy 16.10 K/9 will attest. Sure, he’s a little bit wild but he did end the year on a good note with a stellar September. He should wrestle the 9th inning role from Guerra at some point. When he does, he could be fantasy gold.

Brandon League (SEA)
With David Aardsma recovering from Tommy John surgery (and gone to the Yankees), the closer’s role is League’s. He seemed to work out his command issues with his nasty slider last season and it helped make him a much more effective pitcher. Seattle also has some decent middle infield defence and any games the club wins should be close. League could be a nice pick up.

Vinnie Pestano (CLE)
With closer Chris Perez out for 4-6 weeks with an oblique injury, Pestano could get a shot as Cleveland’s closer sooner rather than later. Moving Pestano into the 9th inning role looks to be inevitable at any rate at some point in the future as Perez has seen a marked drop in his K/9 over the past few seasons and was particularly ineffective in the second half of 2011. Pestano tops Perez in most peripherals, including a nifty 12.19 K/9 and an utter dominance of right-handed batters.

David Robertson (NYY)
Robertson is one of the rare relief pitchers that doesn’t need to get saves to give you fantasy value. However, one of these years, Mariano Rivera is going to start slowing down, right? Okay, maybe not, but if anything happens to Rivera in regard to injury, Robertson will be ready to step into the closer’s role. At the very least, you will have one of the best bullpen arms on your fantasy roster ready to step into the 9th inning role on one of the best teams in baseball. That definitely has fantasy value.

If you don’t walk away with one of the top fantasy baseball relief pitchers in 2012 at your draft, you can always turn to the sleeper picks. You might just get a surprise or two.

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* Brett Myers photo by bridgetds on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 
* Brandon League photo by smswigart on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 27 February 2012

Fantasy Baseball Podcast - Starting Pitchers 2012

Tossing & Turning: Fantasy Baseball Starting Pitcher Sleepers for 2012

Drafting starting pitchers in fantasy baseball can be quite a minefield. After the top 5 pitchers are off the board, there are many question marks at this volatile and unpredictable position. However, having a roster which contains several solid contributors is critical to fantasy baseball success. With 4 of the standard 5x5 categories directly influenced by the strength (or weakness) of your starting pitchers, it is important to find some sleeper pitchers in the later rounds. Some pitchers who should contribute better numbers than their draft position may dictate in 2012 include:

Throw out a horrific .1 IP start in June of last year and Bumgarner was about as good as you can get last season. He boasts incredible control and a devastating slider which add up to top ten potential at the position. Take a great second half, throw in impeccable control and a great pitchers park to call home and Bumgarner looks to be poised to take the next step in 2012.

With Gio Gonzalez and Trevor Cahill departed for Washington and Arizona respectively, McCarthy is the de facto “ace” of the Athletics rotation. He has near elite level control, yielding few walks or home runs. His problem has been staying healthy enough to make an impact on your fantasy roster. Everything is pointing to a big season if he can just stay on the field. Worth the gamble.

Ryan Dempster (CHC)
Dempster saw an increase in his ERA but his peripherals remained largely intact. A high BABIP helped lead to a poor season which included a horrific April and a string of ineffective starts down the stretch. Dempster came into last season with some consistent seasons behind him and a slight improvement in his strikeouts and WHIP will put him right back to where he was in 2010. You should be able to pick him up on the cheap.

Ubaldo Jimenez (CLE)
Even an escape from the Coors Field launching pad didn’t help Jimenez last season. He was equally as ineffective pitching for the Tribe and saw a decline in his fastball velocity by approximately 3MPH. However, he has admitted to battling nagging finger and groin injuries in 2011 which caused him to shift his stride and landing spot upon delivery. He has been working hard to regain core strength in the off season. Expect a return to the velocity which made him one of the hardest throwers in the game to boost his effectiveness as well as his strikeout totals in 2012.

The key to fantasy baseball success is not simply drafting the top rated starting pitchers. The key to fantasy success is drafting starting pitchers who will perform better than their draft position dictates. Take a shot at a few of these sleepers and you may just reap the rewards in 2012.

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* Madison Bumgarner photo by X Wad (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons 
* Ryan Dempster photo by User Mshake3 on en.wikipedia (From en.wikipedia; description page is (was) here) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Thursday, 23 February 2012

Ryan Braun Suspension Overturned - Fantasy Baseball Ranking Changes

With the overturning of Ryan Braun's 50-game suspension to start the 2012 season, the top fantasy baseball outfielder rankings have been adjusted. He jumps from #21 to #2 on the list. Food for thought.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Fantasy Baseball Podcast - Outfielders 2012


Fantasy baseball outfielders - 2012: Top ten, sleepers and rookies. Also, Ichiro Suzuki's power potential for this season and a new Fantasy Fan Board bet involving Edwin Jackson's Win total this season.

Friday, 17 February 2012

Break Out: Fantasy Baseball Players on the Verge of a Monster Season in 2012

Success in fantasy baseball is all about staying ahead of your competitors. As those owners who drafted Curtis Granderson, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp or Justin Verlander a year ago will tell you, having a player on your roster who puts up a monster season can be the difference between winning and losing your fantasy league. Sometimes it is not enough to know who will be the top fantasy baseball players at any one position. Having the inside track on who is primed for a breakthrough campaign can be even more valuable. These players may be ready to explode with huge statistical seasons in 2012:

Jason Heyward (ATL)
Scouts were touting Heyward as one of the best hitters of his generation as recently as a year ago. However, a disappointing 2011 sophomore slump has seen his stock fall precipitously in the world of fantasy baseball. Keep in mind that the Braves right fielder was hampered by a shoulder issue last season and is still only 22 years old. He is a very hard worker and has legitimate 5-tool skills. If he is healthy heading into spring training, he may end up as a top 5 fantasy outfielder by season’s end.
Mike Stanton (MIA)
This is a slugger with a lot of power and his approach at the plate is improving all around. In his second season in 2011, Stanton increased his walks, decreased his strikeout rate and also showed better success against LHP. A nagging late- season injury was probably all that stood between him and 40 HR last year. Don’t be surprised if Stanton leads the NL in HR and garners some serious MVP consideration in 2012.
After a brutal start to the 2011 season (6.17 ERA by the end of April) and an outing on June 21st which saw him surrender 8 ER in .1 IP, Bumgarner settled down to put up one of the best second halves in baseball. He has excellent control and the Giants seem willing to let him pile up the innings. He had as many quality starts as Tim Lincecum (26) last season and he may just ride his devastating slider to surpass “The Freak” as the ace in San Francisco in 2012.

Ichiro Suzuki (SEA)
How can we possibly be talking about Ichiro amongst players who will have monster seasons in 2012? He saw his batting average, one of his biggest fantasy values, tumble to a career-low .272 in 2011. However, his second fantasy value comes in the form of stolen bases and he maintained his rate in that category. The reason he may contribute a massive season in 2012 lies with his power. Although his single season career high in home runs is only 15 (which he hit in 2005), Seattle insiders have been saying for years that Ichiro could easily lead the league in home runs if he chose to. As the Mariner’s lead-off hitter his whole career, power has not been his game. However, there is talk of moving Ichiro to the 3rd slot in the line up. It’s time to see if the power prognosticators are correct. This fiercely proud athlete will be out to prove that his poor 2011 season will not be repeated. Expect the unexpected.

If you are able to draft a good fantasy baseball player that turns out to be a monster fantasy player, you will have the foundation to start winning your league in 2012.
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* Jason Heyward photo by Alex Brady (Hatmatbbat10) (Own work) [CC-BY-3.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], 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

Wednesday, 15 February 2012

Outfield of Dreams: Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Outfielders in 2012

The outfield has become a mining ground for fantasy baseball owners looking for the best players for their rosters. In fact, according to last season’s ESPN player rater, 5 of the top ten fantasy players were outfielders. If you aren’t able to grab one of the top ten fantasy outfielders for 2012, you don’t need to worry. There are plenty of sleeper picks at the outfield position this season. These are some names to consider heading into your draft:

Dexter Fowler (COL)
A poor start, partially due to an abdominal strain, saw Fowler sent down to the minor leagues in the middle of the 2011 season. His tendency to hit balls in the air should lead to an increase in home runs in his 4th big league season. He has been frustrating both fantasy owners and Rockies management with his lack of success in the stolen base department. However, he started hitting and running at a much improved clip in the second half and could break out big time atop the line up in Coors Field this year.


Logan Morrison (MIA)
A mid-August minor league demotion was probably due as much to his personality as it was due to his performance (although a poor average after the All Star break surely didn’t help matters much). With a new park, new teammates and a new manager in the equally tweet-happy Ozzie Guillen, Morrison could be primed for a very big campaign in 2012.

Alex Rios (CWS)
Sure, Rios was brutal last year, but he wasn’t the only member of the White Sox to have a subpar season (Adam Dunn and Gordon Beckham, please step forward). Rios battled a nagging toe injury for the majority of 2011 which may have accounted for his poor stolen base total. He also suffered a career worst .237 BABIP (a full 69 points below the previous season). Better health and better luck should translate into a bounce back 2012 campaign for this 5 category contributor.

Adam Jones (BAL)
Fantasy owners love consistent players. However, when that consistency comes in the form of players who tend to fly under the radar, you have the makings of a sleeper. People in baseball have been waiting for Jones to put up elite numbers for several years now. Keep in mind that he is only 26 years old. With 4 big league seasons under his belt and squarely entering his prime, Jones is primed to break out as a major 5 category contributor as early as this season. Don’t be surprised if he ends up among the top 20 outfielders come season’s end.

Jason Heyward (ATL)
After bursting out of the gate in April with 6 HR and 13 RBI, Heyward fell apart over the rest of the 2011 season. Chalk it up to a nagging shoulder injury and getting bounced around the line up. Heyward should settle into the 5th or 6th spot in the Braves batting order and show off the 5-tool player that he really is when healthy. 2012 could be a monster year for a player with perhaps the most raw talent in the game.

Outfield is a deep position. Career years in 2011 may see some players over-valued at the position. As a result, keep an eye out for fantasy sleepers in the outfield at your draft and you very well may just end up with an “outfield of dreams” on your 2012 fantasy roster.

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* Dexter Fowler photo by dbking on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Alex Rios photo by keith011764 on Flickr (Original version) UCinternational (Crop) [CC-BY-2.0 (www.creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
* Jason Heyward photo by i created the image (i created this file) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

Monday, 13 February 2012

Fantasy Baseball: An Early Form of Social Media

The year was 1992. I entered into my very first fantasy baseball league. It was limited to American League players only and featured a points-based scoring system. I was already a baseball fan but I was about to become an even bigger baseball fan in a very short time. I soon found myself watching more games on television and diligently poring over newspaper box scores every morning. However, as much as I loved following the stats and thoroughly increased my knowledge of players, teams and the game itself, the true aspect of fantasy baseball had yet to reveal itself.
The first month of that initial fantasy baseball season, I started up a fantasy league newsletter to keep everyone informed as to the goings-on in the league (don’t forget, there was no email or internet in those days!). Once I started the newsletter, I learned what fantasy baseball was all about: social interaction.
I was participating in a group which brought together people of diverse backgrounds with the intention of interacting together, sharing a common interest and socializing with other like-minded people. Looking back, I was participating in an early form of social media. The members of the baseball league would get together once a month to discuss the league, our standings, statistics and baseball in general. We would talk about where to get good merchandise for our favorite team, share ideas about the game and even give each other advice about unrelated topics such as the latest movies or the best restaurants in town. Today, this is called social media. In 1992, it was called a group of friends sharing ideas around a common interest. The concepts are the same. Only the medium has changed. Rather than meeting at a public location at a designated time, today we have the ability to communicate electronically every day.
Rotisserie league baseball was created in 1980 by a group of baseball fans formed a fantasy league and would meet at New York City’s La Rotisserie Francais restaurant, thus giving rotisserie baseball its name. This in itself was a social gathering of like-minded people brought together by a common interest. In other words, fantasy baseball was a “social” group complete with interaction, shared interests, ideas and advice.
All these years later, we now use the internet to meet, share ideas, impart advice and interact with other people around a shared common interest. Only the medium has changed. The ideas remain intact. Fantasy baseball has always been about having fun in an interactive way. It really was one of the first forms of social media.
I’m glad I still don’t have to type and mail out those newsletters, though.
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Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Short Nap: Fantasy Baseball Sleeper Shortstops for 2012

Although there are several decent options at the top of the list of fantasy shortstops for 2012, if you find yourself fishing for a player to fill this middle infield position in your draft or auction, you’ll want to have several options available. There are several sleeper candidates for shortstop in 2012 and these are some names of interest:
Stephen Drew (ARI) -
Drew was off to a miserable start in 2011 before being sidelined with a broken ankle in July. Like his brother, J.D., Stephen has disappointed fantasy owners somewhat over the years. However, he did have a solid season in 2008 and also offers a little power and speed to go with a boatload of triples and a decent batting average at home. Drew may be a bit of a forgotten man among your fellow fantasy owners. Check his status in spring training. If he’s recovered from the ankle injury and is running well, he may be a decent late-round bargain.

Dee Gordon (LAD)
Sure, he’s becoming everyone’s trendy sleeper pick for 2012, but for good reason. After a first half spent primarily in the minors, Gordon had a fantastic September in the bigs with 12 SB (his 15 in the second half led all shortstops in that category). He won’t provide any power but if everything works out, he could wind up with 40 steals by season’s end.

Tommy John surgery on his non-throwing elbow in August of last season will surely scare off the majority of your fellow fantasy owners. As a result, Cozart may slip right into your hands. He has shown the ability to put up decent power/speed numbers and has impressed at every level of his minor league development. He has a shot to hit out of the number 2 spot in a potent line up with a good hitters park for home games.  He may deliver double digits in home runs and RBI as early as this season.

The number 9 hitter in a weak Athletics line up is not the likeliest of places to go looking for a sleeper fantasy pick. However, Pennington stole 29 bases as recently as 2010 and shouldn’t hurt you in the batting average department. His performance after the All Star break last season (.303 BA) makes him an interesting option in the later rounds.

If you decide to forgo your middle infield picks until the later rounds, you might want to consider one of these players as a fantasy baseball sleeper pick at shortstop in 2012.

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* Cliff Pennington photo originally posted to Flickr by Keith Allison at http://flickr.com/photos/27003603@N00/5807190446. It was reviewed on 7 June 2011(2011-06-07) by the FlickreviewR robot and confirmed to be licensed under the terms of the cc-by-sa-2.0.

Friday, 3 February 2012

I LIKE MIKE: STANTON FOR 2012 FANTASY BASEBALL MVP

Although the lights may be off at the old Sun Life Stadium, there’s no lack of power from young Marlin’s outfielder Mike Stanton.

By Sam Milne
Special to "Dear Mr. Fantasy"


With the 2012 fantasy baseball season rapidly approaching, now is the time for diligent managers to begin updating their positional rankings in preparation for draft day. With countless rising young stars, there’s little doubt about who could break out in 2012 with MVP-type production. In similar fashion to Matt Kemp in 2011, young players like Nelson Cruz, Starlin Castro, Andrew McCutchen, Carlos Gonzalez and Justin Upton should all take the necessary steps towards becoming fantasy superstars. However, in terms of youth, pure talent and overall potential to provide an elite breakout campaign, Miami Marlins right fielder Mike Stanton is strides above the competition.

After delivering upon lofty expectations through his first full big league season, could 2012 be the year Stanton finally rises to fantasy superstardom? We think so. Based on age, current skill progression, proven consistency and raw strength, there’s little reason to believe Stanton won’t blossom into the games next premier young superstar. 

At age 22, Stanton enters his third year in the big leagues, and second full season as the Marlins starting right fielder. Drafted in the second round, 76th overall, Stanton has vastly outperformed every big leaguer hitter selected before him in the 2007 draft. As a 17-year-old outfield prospect, Stanton feasted on minor league pitching and accelerated through the system to the tune of a homerun every 13 at bats. For further comparison to those drafted before him, refer to the illustration below, demonstrating age, draft position and major/minor league numbers:

R2 P76 Mike Stanton (22)- 250 GP, 56 HR, 146 RBI, .261 avg
                                  > MiLB 324 GP, 89 HR, 244 RBI, .274 avg

R1 P21 J.P. Arencibia (26) – 140 MLB GP, 25 HR, 82 RBI, .218 avg
                                  > MiLB 409 GP, 83 HR, 290 RBI, .275 avg
R1 P14 Jason Heyward (22)– 270 GP, 32 HR, 114 RBI, .255 avg
                                  > MiLB 240 GP, 29 HR, 125 RBI. 317 avg
R1 P7         Matt LaPorta (27) – 269 GP, 30 HR, 115 RBI, .231 avg
                                  > MiLB 244 GP, 57 HR, 184 RBI, .298 avg
R1 P5  Matt Weiters (25) – 365 GP, 44 HR, 166 RBI, .265 avg
                                  > MiLB 169 GP, 32 HR, 121 RBI, .343 avg
R1 P2  Mike Moustakas (23) – 89 GP, 5 HR, 30 RBI, .263 avg
                                  > MiLB 439 GP, 84 HR, 335 RBI, .282 avg

In terms of fantasy value, Stanton’s most appealing statistical trend, one that should continue moving forward, is consistent homerun and power production. During his young professional career, including three plus minor league seasons, Stanton has demonstrated the ability to post consistent power statistics across the board. In 324 minor league games, the former top-prospect dropped 89 bombs, accumulated 244 RBI, and posted a .907 OPS in 1195 AB.  Since his June 2010 major league debut, Stanton’s development has progressed in accordance to his minor league dominance and his tremendous potential. Considering his current major league homerun percentage, 5.65, exactly mimics his career minor league HR%, 5.66, it’s difficult to ignore the young outfielders potential for a breakout 2012 season. After hitting 34 homeruns in 150 games in 2011, fourth best among national league sluggers, is it possible those numbers could increase over full fantasy baseball season? Based on what he’s demonstrated so far, there’s no reason to think otherwise.

Considering his youth and limited major league experience, it’s difficult to forecast the young Marlin’s immediate statistics. However, in theory, and based on historical trends, Stanton’s current 5.66 HR% over a 162 game season, should translate into an additional 3 HR and 7 RBI:

-        34 HR/150 GP = .23 HR/GM x 12 games missed = 2.7
-        3.5 avg AB per G x 12 games missed = 42.18 additional AB / 15.17 AB per HR = 2.82
>  additional 2.7 – 2.8 HR

-        87 RBI/150 GP = .58 RBI/GM x 12 = 6.96
-        3.5 avg AB per G x 12 games missed = 42.18 additional AB / 5.92 AB per RBI = 7.12
> additional 6.96 – 7.12 RBI

Had Stanton played a full season in 2011, his homerun totals would be around 37, third best in the N.L. behind only Kemp and Fielder, and his RBI totals would increase to 94, eighth best in the N.L. Not bad for a kid in his first full major league season. Although the above figures are merely rough estimates, it’s conceivable that these numbers could jump even higher in Stanton’s third year in the league, health permitting.

Stanton possesses the type of raw strength, power, and hitting prowess to draw comparisons to Detroit Tigers third basemen, and former young phenom, Miguel Cabrera. At just 22 years old, the young slugger Stanton boasts an average home run distance of 417 feet, nearly twenty feet further than the MLB average, 396 feet. His longest homerun, 474 feet, ranked fifth in 2011, behind veteran sluggers Kemp, Fielder, Pujols and Uggla according to ESPN Home Run Tracker. In addition, the tracker defines three home run types:
-        Just Enough (JE) – cleared the fence by ten vertical feet or less
-        No Doubters (ND) – Cleared the fence by twenty vertical feet and landed 50 feet past fence
-        Plenty (PL) – Everything else

Stanton’s 2010-11 HR by type:

                 JE              ND             PL
2010          6               6               10
2011          7               15*            12

Stanton’s power potential is legitimate. Illustrated by his league leading 15 “no doubters”, his average home run distance of 417 feet is no fluke. These figures also prove his ability to improve his numbers with more experience and games played. After hitting just six ND is 2010, over 100 games, he posted 15 ND in 2011 while limiting his “just enoughs” to a meager seven. Some may wonder whether the Marlins shift to a new, slightly larger, ballpark will hurt his home run production; however, those fears should be silenced after considering: 1.) With Stanton’s strength and current distance per homerun, it shouldn’t matter where he plays, and 2.) The Marlins new stadium is only a fraction larger than Sun Life Stadium. In 2011 Stanton hit 16 HR in 72 home games, compared to 18 HR in 78 road games.



With increased pitcher familiarity and a vastly improved Marlins starting lineup, Stanton should feast on National League pitching. Following quality veteran hitters Hanley Ramirez and Jose Reyes in the lineup, and batting in front of rising stars Logan Morrison and Gaby Sanchez, Stanton is the type of second round fantasy draft pick that could provide first round MVP-type stats. Because of the youngsters unmatched power skills, the opportunity for league leading numbers in runs scored, home runs, and runs batted in could be realistic in 2012, as well as improved statistics in batting average, OPS and total bases

Could Stanton encounter a sophomore slump? Of course, anything is possible. But based on historical trends, improving power consistency, rapid development, and improving strength and maturity, we don’t believe he will. While critics will highlight his below average contact rate, high strike out rate and few steals, these are all factor’s of the young man’s game that will continue to improve with pitcher familiarity and big league experience. 

When it comes to Stanton, it’s critical to focus on the fundamental factors contributing most to his success; real power, youth, consistent development, and strong lineup support. As breakout candidates go, it should be clear that Stanton is among the leading nominees for 2012’s Fantasy Baseball MVP. Expect Stanton to take the necessary steps towards placing himself among the league leaders in all major power categories in 2012, and placing trusting owners atop fantasy baseball league standings.

2012 Production Projection: 158 GP, 544 AB, 102 R, 41 HR, 119 RBI, .261 avg. 1.041 OPS, 4 SB

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About the Author: As a player, coach, scout and member of professional front offices, Sam Milne has been around baseball all his life. His passion for the game is without question, and is evident in his fantasy baseball research and analysis.  Need more? Follow his blog, thefantasydugout, for the latest in player analysis, positional rankings and team breakdowns.

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