March 2012

No Mor-neau?

Justin Morneau won the MVP in 2006 after raking to the tune of a .321/.375/.559 line, with 37 2B, 34 HR, and 130 RBI, leading the Twins to a 96-66 record and the AL Central title.  Since then, Morneau hasn’t been all bad, as he was an All-Star from 2007-2010, but then…IT happened.

July 7, 2010, Morneau collided with John McDonald at second base (http://mlb.mlb.com/video/play.jsp?content_id=9761163) in a game against the Toronto Blue Jays, he then missed the remainder of the season, which he left with a .345/.437/.618 line in 81 games, a clear MVP candidate.  2011 wasn’t very friendly after the concussion symptoms cleared up.  He missed five games in April with the flu, a couple of games in June due to a sore wrist, and then he had neck surgery to resolve a pinched nerve problem.  He came back in mid-August only to miss time with a bruised foot and on August 29, he suffered a shoulder injury which resulted in more concussion-like symptoms and he was done for the year.

Since sustaining his concussion in July of 2010, Morneau has hit just .227/.285/.333 with 16 2B, 4 HR, and 30 RBI in 69 games.  This spring he has been pretty miserable, until he ripped two homers on Saturday, posting a .154/.233/.333 line with 2 HR and 7 RBI, going just 6 for 39.

Morneau doesn’t seem right this spring and he has been DH in the last seven games that he has played.  It could be an opportunity for Ryan Doumit to get a look at first, or maybe to see if Chris Parmelee should have a larger role or get sent to Triple-A Rochester.  Regardless, Morneau is going to get his own shot to play every day, as Twins manger Ron Gardenhire told the Minneapolis Star-Tribune:

“He’s in the lineup; it doesn’t matter where we’re playing him. We’re just getting him at-bats right now. I know he can play first base, I don’t need to know about that. I need to know about other people. Right now, he’s just playing.  We’ll decide that when we get down to the end. I told you that before; we’ll make that decision at the end of spring training. Right now we’ll do what we have to do to get him at-bats.”

Getting Justin Morneau at bats is necessary, but it is necessary because the Twins need to see if he has anything left.  Concussions have manipulated some of the greatest careers ever: Steve Young, Sidney Crosby, and now Morneau.  Morneau even said himself (to the Associated Press) when he reported to spring:

“I don’t think there will be a career if it’s something I’m dealing with (for  the long term), that’s the reality of the whole thing.  I’m obviously not going to continue to mess around with this if it continues to  be a problem. There comes a point where you can only torture yourself  for so long. It’s something I love to do but you keep preparing and you keep  being left out. That’s something that nobody wants to go through.”

If the issues persist, Morneau could be done whether he wants to be or not.  He will be 31-years-old on May 15th and he is married with a daughter.  How long will he give himself to return to form?  Will he ever return to form?  The Twins can only hope so, but Morneau seems to be giving it his all to no avail at this point.

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Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Outfielders

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for outfielders (Note: Due to the number of OF, stats will not be given.  Quit being lazy and look them up; however, I have provided thoughts about players when warranted):

1. Jose Bautista, Blue Jays, RF:

“Joey Bats” has proven that a leg kick and a swing reinvention is greater than any female hormone.  Manny could use some lessons from this superstar slugger.  Expect continued success in 2012 with a dramatic increase in runs scored due to being pitched around.

2. Matt Kemp, Dodgers, CF:

The should-be reigning MVP of the NL will probably see a slight decrease in his numbers in 2012.  He just won’t be given the chance to beat the opposition like he was last year, especially with the lack of punch surrounding him in the Dodger lineup.  30/30 should be easy, 40/40 is attainable, but somewhere in the middle will be fantastic.

3. Ryan Braun, Brewers: LF:

Whether you believe the doping or not, “The Hebrew Hammer” will have a full season to torment opposing pitchers in 2012.  Braun will continue to be very valuable, but you have to wonder if Prince Fielder’s departure will factor into his final numbers.  Could Braun be the Jeff Kent to Barry Bonds’ Fielder?

4. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks, RF:

When a guy is this young and shows dramatic power increases, what isn’t there to get excited about?  Upton could top this list by the end of the season with above average power in a hitter’s paradise.

5. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies, LF/CF:

CarGo should be over the wrist injury that sapped his production in 2011, when he still managed to post solid numbers across the board.  He will post some impressive numbers in Colorado, sitting comfortably in the middle of the order with Troy Tulowitzki.

6. Curtis Granderson, Yankees, CF:

The Grandy-man looks to have taken the Bautista reinvention route, as well.  He doesn’t hit for the attractive average that Bautista does, but Granderson is another player in a hitter’s park with an attractive lineup.  He could continue mashing while piling up strikeouts, but he has improved on his plate discipline in the last couple of seasons.  If that also continues, Granderson could be in for a 45-HR season in 2012.

7. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox, CF:

I’m not a believer in Ellsbury’s power from 2011, but I am not accusing him of being Brady Anderson, either.  He’ll probably hit closer to 18 HR in 2012, while regaining his value as an elite basestealer with power, rather than the powerful basestealer that he became last season.

8. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates, CF

9. Giancarlo Stanton, Marlins, RF:

New name, new stadium, same giant human being with tremendous raw power.  It won’t be long before Stanton is ripping 40+ HR every season, and it will start around August when he breaks 40 for the first time.

10. Jay Bruce, Reds, RF:

This is the year that he puts it all together.  He’ll become the MVP of a team that will need to replace one, as the Reds head towards the end of the Votto Era.

11. Matt Holliday, Cardinals, LF

12. Josh Hamilton, Rangers, LF:

Let the man have a beer and shut up.  Hamilton needs to stay healthy and that is all that he and the Rangers need to worry about.  Putting him in LF should help prevent ranging too aggressively on defense and tearing any further groinal region muscles in 2012.

13. Alex Gordon, Royals, LF

14. BJ Upton, Rays, CF

15. Adam Jones, Orioles, CF:

Jones is still just 26 (until August) and he ripped 26 2B and 25 HR in 2011.  He plays in a hitter’s park and is in his prime.  He isn’t rated highly enough by others for a continued breakout.  Jones will hit 30 HR this year.

16. Hunter Pence, Phillies, RF

17. Carl Crawford, Red Sox, LF:

Rebound.  God help the Red Sox if he doesn’t.

18. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians, RF:

Trouble in Korea and a DUI could distract anyone.  Choo returns to form in 2012.

19. Nelson Cruz, Rangers, RF:

If Cruz would just keep his legs healthy for a full season, he could really put up incredible numbers.

20. Michael Morse, Nationals, LF:

Very underrated.  Morse exploded with a full season of power in 2011, rewarding the Nats for giving him a shot.  Now, he’ll be in LF for part of the season and at 1B with LaRoche’s shoulder falls off and Bryce Harper arrives.

21. Ben Zobrist, Rays, RF (primarily 2B)

22. Nick Swisher, Yankees, RF

23. Shane Victorino, Phillies, CF

24. Corey Hart, Brewers, RF

25. Michael Cuddyer, Rockies, RF

26. Carlos Beltran, Cardinals, RF

27. Desmond Jennings, Rays, LF:

Jennings was missing in action in September, but he showed a lot more power than scouts thought he had prior to that meltdown.  It’ll be interesting to watch what he can do over a full season.

28. Michael Bourn, Braves, CF

29. Jason Kubel, Diamondbacks, LF:

Kubel showed power before Target Field for the Twins.  He’ll play an ugly LF, but his bat PLUS Chase Field EQUALS a sexy time.

30. Jayson Werth, Nationals, RF

31. Melky Cabrera, Giants, LF/CF:

Cabrera had a fantastic spring in 2011 and had a breakout season.  He is having another fantastic spring in 2012.  He will continue to show talent with a spacious home park for the Giants.

32. Torii Hunter, Angels, RF

33. Cameron Maybin, Padres, CF

34. Jason Heyward, Braves, RF

35. Chris Young, Diamondbacks, CF:

In points leagues, Young is undervalued.  He can hit for power and steal plenty of bases.  He is nearly a clone of Mike Cameron in his prime, strikeouts included.

36. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners, RF:

Ichiro is a unique player who can become the type of hitter that he is needed to be by his team.  He had been a hits machine in the leadoff spot until his on-base skills were viewed as less than satisfactory.  He’s now a #3 hitter.  He’ll drive in more runs and hit for more power because that is what is expected of him.  Look for a return to a .320 average with about 15 HR in 2012.

37. Logan Morrison, Marlins, LF

38. Drew Stubbs, Reds, CF

39. Andre Ethier, Dodgers, RF:

Ethier has had knee issues the last couple of seasons, but that doesn’t explain how awful he has been against LHP in that time.  He needs to start hitting lefties again to avoid an eventual platoon.

40. Lucas Duda, Mets, RF:

Duda is a large individual, but he can hit.  He could be the Mets best player, offensively, when the season is over.

41. Coco Crisp, A’s, LF

42. Brett Gardner, Yankees, LF

43. Josh Willingham, Twins, LF/RF:

Someone needs to come out with a ridiculous video for this guy like Tim Tebow had with “All I do is hit, hit, hit, no matter what, what, what.”  He should still hit for power, even in Target Field.

44. Carlos Quentin, Padres, LF:

Quentin will miss the first few weeks of the season due to knee surgery, but he will be an intriguing acquisition for the Padres.  The Friars have been without a power bat since they traded Adrian Gonzalez, so Quentin will be “that guy” when he comes back.  San Diego needs to hope his shoulder holds up in the outfield again, as he has had issues with it during his career.

45. Jason Bay, Mets, LF

46. Jeff Francoeur, Royals, RF

47. Colby Rasmus, Blue Jays, CF:

Rasmus was a nightmare when he arrived in Toronto.  He just couldn’t hit.  He has power and showed earlier in his career that he has All-Star potential.  If he hits .260, he could hit 25-30 HR in 2012.  Another guy to watch in Toronto as Lawrie and Bautista help form a dynamic lineup.

48. Martin Prado, Braves, LF

49. Delmon Young, Tigers, LF:

Young has been outstanding this spring.  He was pretty impressive once he went to Detroit last year, too.  Young with Fielder and Cabrera…could be very scary.

50. Matt Joyce, Rays, RF

51. Dexter Fowler, Rockies, CF:

HUGE 2nd half last season.  Fowler will be overlooked by many due to a lack of power, but he could have 20 2B, 15 3B, 15 HR, and 25 SB in a full season.

52. Eric Thames/Travis Snider, Blue Jays, LF:

This is a major, major battle to watch.  While neither are superstars, whoever wins the job is going to strike out a ton…while hitting around 15-20 HR and driving in 70-80 runs.  Both of these young guys have talent and Snider has failed several times prior to this, so, personally, I feel like Thames deserves a full-time shot after holding his own last season.

53. Vernon Wells, Angels, LF:

How in the HeLLLLLLLLL did the Angels take on his whole contract and give away Mike Napoli in the process?  Brilliant!!!

54. Brennan Boesch, Tigers, RF

55. Josh Reddick, A’s, RF

56. Yoenis Cespedes, A’s, CF:

Oakland’s lottery ticket will be swinging for the fences all season.  He has tremendous raw power, but, like many Cuban defectors, will initially struggle to make contact.

57. Alfonso Soriano, Cubs, LF

58. Jose Tabata, Pirates, RF

59. Alex Presley, Pirates, LF

60. Ryan Ludwick/Chris Heisey, Reds, LF:

This is another intriguing battle.  Ludwick will play a lot because Dusty Baker loves his veterans, but Heisey has proven that he can hit 15+ HR in around 300 at bats.  If one of these two get full-time at bats, they would be a top 30 OF; however, I’m counting on a solid share, especially because Heisey has a backwards platoon history, killing RHP to the tune of .288/.346/.539 with 22 HR in 330 at bats, compared to a .180/.248/.300 with 4 HR in 150 at bats against LHP.

Shocking Spring #’s

Below are some guys who have impressed or have been absolutely miserable.  There are familiar names and there are some surprises.  Can it carry over if they’re doing well?  Will it carry over if they’re doing poorly?  Only time will tell, but it’s nice to dream that:

Melky Cabrera is a future Hall of Famer

.410/.425/.769, 5 2B, 3 HR, and 9 RBI

Cabrera hit .468/.471/.742 last spring, then he went on to have a career year, posting a .305/.339/.470 slash with 44 2B, 5 3B, 18 HR, 87 RBI, and 20 SB.  He is now in San Francisco instead of Kansas City, but he could use the spacious gaps to post similar numbers this season.

The Tigers have two stars and they aren’t Cabrera and Fielder

Delmon Young: .472/.487/1.000, 4 2B, 5 HR, 19 RBI

Ryan Raburn: .462/.464/1.308, 2 2B, 1 3B, 6 HR, 18 RBI

Raburn looks like he shouldn’t have to share second base with Ramon Santiago.  He’s always had excellent power, so this is something that should continue…as long as he keeps making contact, which is where his problem has always been.

Young is also raking, the same thing he has done since joining Detroit.  Keep in mind that Young scored 28 runs, ripped 5 2B, 1 3B, 8 HR, and drove in 32 runs in just 40 games when he arrived in Western Windsor Canada last season.  If he cuts down on his strikeouts, Young, too, could develop into a star…the one everyone thought he was going to be several years ago.

Short people can play baseball

Colin Cowgill: .419/.469/.605, 4 2B, 2 3B, 4 SB

It is still a crowded A’s outfield, and the 5’9″ University of Kentucky product will have trouble finding playing time because of it.  With Coco Crisp in left, Yoenis Cespedes in center, and Josh Reddick in right, Cowgill will battle Seth Smith and Jonny Gomes for backup outfield time and occasional starts at DH.  Cowgill may never get a serious shot due to his size, and that would be a short-coming…pun intended…by the organizations that continue to overlook him.

He Cain lead the league in OPS

Lorenzo Cain: .500/.553/.971, 7 2B, 3 HR, 5 RBI

With Eric Hosmer, Billy Butler, and Mike Moustakas becoming the elite players that everyone anticipated them becoming, what would make the Royals really happy?  How about ANYONE from the Zack Greinke trade working out for them!?  Cain won’t be killing any of his brothers, but he could destroy some pitching and become one of the best center fielders in baseball in his rookie season.

Francisco Liriano is good again

2.77 ERA, 0.62 WHIP, .143 BAA, 18/2 K/BB in 13 IP

Dude can pitch when the Twins let him pitch in the Dominican Winter League…which they didn’t let him do prior to an absolutely disgusting 2011.

The most dominant pitcher this spring won’t have a job when camp breaks…sorry about your luck Wade LeBlanc

0.61 ERA, 0.41 WHIP, .083 BAA, 15/2 K/BB in 14 2/3 IP

Josh Johnson, Mark Buehrle, Ricky Nolasco, Anibal Sanchez, and Carlos Zambrano will be ahead of him, but LeBlanc should get a shot at some point between Johnson and Sanchez shoulder woes and a Zambrano breakdown.

The Suckers

Jair Jurrjens: 10.13 ERA, 2.63 WHIP, .403 BAA, 8/10 K/BB in 13 1/3 IP

Jurrjens would do better just sitting a ball on a tee.  The only guys who aren’t hitting against him are the ball boys, and his ugly K/BB ratio is concerning, as are his consistent shoulder woes.  Stay away.

Mike Pelfrey: 14.90 ERA, 2.69 WHIP, .426 BAA, 4/6 K/BB in 9 2/3 IP

Not even Pelfrey’s ears can hold the ball back this spring.  It looks like his two pitch arsenal is finally not working, but no one saw that coming…except Ray Charles.

Raul Ibanez: .059/.111/.088, 2 for 34 with 0 XBH and 2 RBI

Wonder why he was still available when the Yankees finally signed him?  Oh…I know.  He’s old and can’t hit a fastball.  Andruw Jones will get a lot of at bats at DH in 2012.

Freddie Freeman: .174/.191/.171, 8 for 46, 0 XBH, and 3 RBI

Freeman had some issues with a knee dislocation earlier in the spring, so he may get a small pass for that; however, the Braves need him to have it in high gear when things really get going, as he is one of their key bats.

Jason Heyward: .208/.236/.358, 11 for 53, 2 2B, 2 HR, 8 RBI, 16 K!

So much for refining his swing.  Heyward has picked up where he left off in 2011.  There is still time for him to get it going, but if both Freeman AND Heyward are hitting like this in April, the Braves will be alongside the Mets in the NL East basement.

 

Fantasy Baseball Rankings: Shortstops

Overall rankings will consist of the player’s value in a points format, earning points for each H, R, 2B, 3B, HR, RBI, basically a formula of Total Bases + RBI + Runs = Total Value.  Here are the rankings for 2B, projections are italicized:

Shortstop is getting to be extremely shallow in fantasy.  It is filled with injury risks and aging veterans.  Gone are the days of several superstars, which has been gone since ARod moved to third and Nomar was traded to the Cubs.

1. Troy Tulowitzki, Rockies

.302/.372/.544, 36 2B, 2 3B, 30 HR, 105 RBI, 9 SB in 537 AB

.313/.394/.559, 38 2B, 3 3B, 34 HR, 112 RBI, 4 SB in 589 AB

There is one elite player at this position and Tulowitzki is it.  For all of the hype that has gone to Jose Reyes and his mega-Free Agency this offseason, he isn’t the difference maker that Tulo is.  He is a power-hitting SS and he will be the only SS with 100 RBI in 2012.  If you don’t get him, you’re going to settle for the rest.

2. Starlin Castro, Cubs

.307/.341/.432, 36 2B, 9 3B, 10 HR, 66 RBI, 22 SB in 674 AB

.298/.347/.461, 38 2B, 7 3B, 16 HR, 71 RBI, 18 SB in 647 AB

Castro only had 207 hits in his first full season.  He is probably not going to be a long-term hit machine, as he is going to fill into a player with more power, possibly even moving to third base.  He is more of a certainty than others who come after him, like…

3. Jose Reyes, Marlins

.337/.384/.493, 31 2B, 16 3B, 7 HR, 44 RBI, 39 SB in 537 AB

.301/.365/.449, 29 2B, 8 3B, 4 HR, 36 RBI, 21 SB in 467 AB

Reyes is an excellent player and a game-changing talent, but he isn’t on the field enough to be taken seriously.  While he’s been on the field more than someone like Rickie Weeks in his career, you have to wonder how his speed game is going to hold up as he ages, as it hasn’t held up in his youth.  The constant nagging injuries will take away from his value, as will the spacious ballpark that he is going to be playing in from his already non-Tulo power stats.  With that being said, he could prove me wrong and repeat what he did in 2011 for several years and be elite…but why would you count on that?

4. Asdrubal Cabrera, Indians

.273/.332/.460, 32 2B, 3 3B, 25 HR, 92 RBI, 17 SB in 604 AB

.281/.341/.459, 36 2B, 2 3B, 18 HR, 81 RBI, 13 SB in 587 AB

Well…that came out of nowhere.  You have to wonder if this power-hitting, team carrying type of player is here to stay.  He was injured for the previous couple of seasons.  Can he make adjustments, though?  He hit just .244/.310/.419 in the 2nd half of 2011.  He’s still well-above average with a decline, but it won’t be as drastic as some believe.

5. J.J. Hardy, Orioles

.269/.310/.491, 27 2B, 30 HR, 80 RBI in 527 AB

.259/.314/.486, 24 2B, 29 HR, 76 RBi in 564 AB

Remember the scoring.  He isn’t a top five SS in most leagues due to the average and lack of running ability; however, his power is very, very valuable at his position.  Hardy is playing in a bandbox still and he will continue to hit homeruns, post low averages, and strikeout with Mark Reynolds.

6.  Jhonny Peralta, Tigers

.299/.345/.478, 25 2B, 3 3B, 21 HR, 86 RBI in 525 AB

.287/.338/.479, 28 2B, 2 3B, 22 HR, 86 RBI in 563 AB

Peralta isn’t a SS…but the Tigers gave up on defense for the offensive power.  They may have the worst left side of the infield in the history of baseball in 2012, but fantasy baseball doesn’t count range factor and errors.  He’ll have plenty of opportunities to drive in runs and should build on his successful 2011 season.

7.  Jimmy Rollins, Phillies

.268/.338/.399, 22 2B, 2 3B, 16 HR, 63 RBI, 30 SB in 567 AB

.280/.340/.411, 26 2B, 4 3B, 13 HR, 68 RBI, 24 SB in 584 AB

J-Roll still has another good year in him, but he is of the same pedigree as Jose Reyes – speed + injuries = worthlessness.  Buyer beware, but the Phillies are counting on him to build off of 2011 as the age of their offensive core increases quicker than the National debt.

8.  Yunel Escobar, Blue Jays

.290/.369/.413, 24 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 48 RBI, 3 SB in 513 AB

.284/.376/.422, 27 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 56 RBI, 5 SB in 562 AB

Escobar is a real pain in the ass.  He got traded from Atlanta due to attitude issues and seems to not care at times.  If he bothered putting out maximum effort, he could rank as high as 3rd on this list.  He has quite a lineup around him, so if he puts it all together, don’t be shocked.

9.  Derek Jeter, Yankees

.297/.355/.388, 24 2B, 4 3B, 6 HR, 61 RBI, 16 sB in 546 AB

.307/.364/.408, 29 2B, 4 3B, 11 HR, 65 RBI, 13 SB in 573 AB

The Captain isn’t as bad as people think.  He still posted a decent AVG and OBP last season, though the SLG got ugly quick.  He isn’t getting any younger, but he still has the lineup around him and the ability to play every day.  He should rebound a bit.

10.  Elvis Andrus, Rangers

.279/.347/.361, 27 2B, 3 3B, 5 HR, 60 RBI, 37 SB in 587 AB

.287/.356/.394, 32 2B, 4 3B, 7 HR, 64 RBI, 42 SB in 593 AB

Andrus is still very young and is in a fantastic lineup and ballpark.  He has a solid eye and should improve upon his 75.5% SB rate.  The power is lacking, but he does enough small things to get you points.

11.  Erick Aybar, Angels

.279/.322/.421, 33 2B, 8 3B, 10 HR, 59 RBI, 30 SB in 556 AB

.268/.313/.406, 29 2B, 5 3B, 7 HR, 48 RBI, 24 SB in 498 AB

If Trumbo is going to play third and Mike Scoscia is still in charge, Maicer Izturis is going to steal Aybar’s playing time from time to time.  Slight drop-off due to that decrease.

12.  Alexei Ramirez, White Sox

.269/.328/.399, 31 2B, 2 3B, 15 HR, 70 RBI, 7 SB in 614 AB

.264/.325/.403, 30 2B, 1 3B, 18 HR, 67 RBI, 5 SB in 598 AB

13.  Stephen Drew, Diamondbacks

.252/.317/.396, 21 2B, 5 3B, 5 HR, 45 RBI, 4 SB in 321 AB

.269/.328/.403, 24 2B, 3 3B, 11 HR, 61 RBI, 3 SB in 461 AB

Those Drew boys never stay healthy.  If he comes back healthy, he could post solid numbers, but he may have issues staying in the lineup due to his last name.

14.  Zack Cozart, Reds

.324/.324/.486, 2 HR, 3 RBI in 37 AB

.259/.327/.403, 21 2B, 4 3B, 14 HR, 49 RBI, 6 SB in 498 AB

Sleeper like crazy here.  He isn’t going to post an incredible average, but Cozart has some pop and plays in a great offense and ballpark.  He could do even more than the numbers listed above…or…Dusty Baker’s veteran-loving-ass could play Paul Janish over him…ugh.

15.  Sean Rodriguez, Rays

.223/.323/.357, 20 2B, 3 3B, 8 HR, 36 RBI, 11 SB in 373 AB

.241/.336/.374, 26 2B, 5 3B, 12 HR, 51 RBI, 19 SB in 471 AB

The Rest: Ian Desmond, Nationals; Alex Gonzalez, Brewers; Alcides Escobar, Royals; Jed Lowrie, Astros; Dee Gordon, Dodgers; Jason Bartlett, Padres; Ryan Theriot, Giants; Rafael Furcal, Cardinals; Cliff Pennington, A’s; Mike Aviles, Red Sox;

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