Fantasy Baseball 2010 Part 1: The Sticks

This season marked the first time that I recorded a first place finish in Pirate-Pack-Heel Nation BB.   Pirate-Pack-Heel Nation is a keeper league that I joined for the 2008 baseball season.  After finishing 11th out of 12 teams in my first year, I was able to redraft and rebuild my 2009 roster to fill some of the holes that a few of my top picks left in their wake (yes, I’m looking at you, post-steroids Travis Hafner).  In my second season I finished a solid second place.

Needless to say that after two years of heartbreak, it was an incredibly exciting day for me on Monday, October 4th, as I woke up to the sight below:

Pirate-Pack-Heel Nation BB is set up for standard 5 x 5 roto scoring.  However, the rosters are set up a little bit differently than traditional roto leagues.  Our league is a 12 team league with a 30 man roster and 3 DL slots.  Of those 30, we keep 20 at the end of each year and draft 10 rounds at the beginning of each season.  We start the standard C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, as well as an INF, OF, and UTIL.  Our outfield spots are actually divided into positions with LF, CF, and RF slots, which makes drafting outfielders a little tricky.  You do have to make sure that you cover all three of your outfield positions and the position eligibility makes players like Josh Hamilton and Carlos Gonzalez even more valuable because they can dominate from a weaker position like CF, opening up room on the corners for stronger players.

Keys to success: I was awesome at EVERYTHING.

I was incredibly pleased with my team’s performance this season as it was nice to see all of my off season preparation pay off.  I ended up winning my league by 11 1/2 points.  However, less than a month prior I had amassed a lead of 20 points.  It was slowly whittled away over the waning days as my pitchers hit their innings limit, capping my counting stats categories of strikeouts, wins, and saves.

I kept up a sense of urgency all summer long, keeping a close eye on waiver wire pitching matchups and I dabbled in a few favorable matchups.  I looked for starts like Carlos Monasterios against Arizona on June 2nd (5IP, 2H,  OER, 3K), Wade LeBlanc against Pittsburgh on August 10th (W, 5.2IP, 5H, 1ER, 2BB, 8K) and Brian Duensing against Baltimore on July 23rd (5IP, 4H, 1ER, OBB, 3K) and looked to pick up a few solid innings wherever I could.  Eventually my three frontline starters were throwing enough great innings that I didn’t need to play the matchup game any longer and I just relied on the arms of Cliff Lee, Roy Oswalt, and Ubaldo Jimenez.

I felt that over the past few seasons I had constructed a roster that was built for rotisserie baseball.  I have a roster full of guys who contribute in all 5 x 5 categories that I call my ‘complete players’.  They aren’t league leaders in anything, but they help everywhere across the board.  I consider these players the nucleus of my team and they’re what I base my fantasy baseball philosophy around.  That would include guys like David Wright, Shin-Soo Choo, Carl Crawford, and Matt Kemp.  Because ‘Being Awesome’ isn’t a fantasy category, none of those players were league leaders in any 5 x 5 category, but they put up solid numbers in all of them.

To compliment these complete players, I look for other guys that I refer to as ‘specialists’ to help compensate for the categories that my complete players don’t dominate.  These specialists aren’t across-the-board stars, but they may be able to contribute in one or two statistical categories in a big way.  Elvis Andrus, for example, was a void for power this season, but probably racked up 20-25 steals for me during his playing time.  He contributed enough when he started for me to help keep me towards the top in stolen bases.  Adam Dunn dings the ol’ batting average, but mashed 38 homers and drove in 103 runs (and that being said, Dunn hit a respectable .260 this season).

I was talking to my roommate, who is a casual baseball fan, over the summer and telling him about my roster and how I liked my chances of winning going into the second half.  As he looked over my roster, he remarked, ‘I don’t know half the guys on your team.  You don’t have a lot of “big name” players.’  I agree with that sentiment, to a degree.  I definitely don’t think that I have a lot of the big names that an average baseball fan would know.  But I do have a roster full of players who all contribute big stats in at least one roto category or another.  There are no players that don’t serve a purpose on my roster, and that’s what I believe made my team the best out there this season.

So now I’m going to dissect the roster that I ended up with at the end of the 2010 campaign.  I’m not only going to look at where my team ended up (above all those other chumps), but also where they came from and how they got here.  It will be of note that I made several dozen other moves that won’t be chronicled here (like the Chris Carter experience during his call up to Oakland).  That could take me weeks to look at and discuss.  I’m just going to focus on my end of the season roster and some of my thinking involved with each player.

Today I’ll start with the hitters, with the pitchers soon to follow.

Victor Martinez, C-1B [DET] – Acquired via draft, 2008

I am a big fan of valuable catchers in fantasy baseball.  I view them like a fantasy football player views a productive tight end.  It’s hard to find a player who gets consistent playing time and puts up solid numbers at the position.  I drafted Martinez with my third overall pick in 2008 (right before) Travis Hafner (blerg) and after Carl Crawford.

Martinez is clearly in the top tier of fantasy catchers, along with Mauer, McCann, and newly anointed Buster Posey.

DL Carlos Santana, C [CLE] – Acquired via draft, 2010

I cannot say enough positive things about Carlos Santana as a ball player.  I began tracking him after he was traded from the Dodgers to Cleveland in July of 2008 and he put up solid numbers between Cleveland’s A and AA ball clubs.  Then in 2009 he went out and hit .290/23/97 coupled with a .943 OPS in AAA Akron.  It was then I knew that Carlos was destined to join the awesome Catchers Club in my fantasy baseball tree house.  Sorry.  No girls allowed.

He was my 4th overall pick in our expansion draft before the 2010 season and before his knee was gruesomely injured, he hit a respectable .260/.401/.467 (AVG/OBP/SLG) paired with 6 home runs and 22 RBI.  He’s a selective hitter who traditionally walks more than he strikes out (37BB/29K’s in 192 major league plate appearances), which makes me giggle like a school girl. Except I’m much cuter than a school girl when I giggle.

He should be a keeper staple for years to come.

Jesus Montero, C [NYY] – Acquired via waiver wire, August 11, 2010

I’m oftentimes harassed by others in my fantasy baseball circles for taking speculative players to build for the future.  With the large rosters size in our league and my love for catchers, Jesus Montero was too good of a prospect to pass up.  The 21 year old righty is considered a defensive liability for his slow feet and release time behind home plate.  He eventually projects to be a full-time first base/DH when he finally reaches the Bigs.

After a slow start in AAA Scranton (.252/7/37 pre All-Star), Montero ended up finishing the season strong (.351/14/38 post All-Star) with a .289/21/75 season.  When Montero gets ahead in the count, he’s nearly unstoppable with a .328/.503/.627 line (AVG/OBP/SLG).

I thought with the expanded rosters in September that Montero would get a call up and I’d be able to catch a glimpse of my fantasy team’s future behind the plate (which looks increasingly bright), but an infection in his leg ended his 2010 campaign prematurely and Montero wasn’t even able to help the Scranton/Wilkes-Barre Yankees in their playoff run.

He is a purely speculative pick who I can monitor over the course of the off season, but the important thing for me was controlling his rights going into 2011.  And the potential of a three headed catching monster known as Martinez/Montero/Santana should frighten anyone.

Adam Dunn, 1B-LF-RF [CHW] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Robinson Cano for Adam Dunn)

Dunn is my fantasy baseball muse.  He’s the ultimate roto player because he puts up unbelievable counting stats with his HRs and RBIs.  At the time I had picked him up, Robbie Cano had yet to establish himself as the premiere fantasy stalwart second baseman.  In hindsight, would I pull the trigger on this trade?  Probably not.  But Dunn not only puts up solid counting stats year in and year out, he also puts up great sabermetric numbers (a career .381 OBP). Unfortunately for me, walks don’t count (career average of 111 walks/162 game season).  Fortunately for me, neither do strikeouts (career average of 183 K’s/162 game season).

Dunn is a player that I plug into my lineup mindlessly every day and wait for the weeks when he catches fire.  His multiple position eligibility along with his clean bill of health have proved invaluable to my fantasy team.  The average will lag (.250 career), but, as a welcomed surprise, he’s hit well above his average the last two seasons (’09 -’10, .267/.260), which has made him all-the-more valuable.

Luke Scott, 1B-LF [BAL] – Acquired via waiver wire, July 23, 2010

Scott was a post All-Star break pick up whose numbers were too solid to be floating around on the waiver wire as of July 23rd.  At that point in the season I was ahead in most of my pitching categories other than wins, so I cut ties with lefty Brian Duensing to boost my offense.  I was bountifully rewarded with an offensive smorgasbord in the second half as Scott posted a .295/15/42 line, along with a .937 OPS after the Break.

I had originally picked up Scott with the hopes of him heating up and moving him for a bullpen arm, but he proved so valuable to my offensive categories that every offer I received didn’t make it worth the void Scott would have left on my team.  And my heart.

Garrett Jones, 1B-LF-RF [PIT] – Acquired via trade, July 23, 2010 (Jason Bay/Billy Wagner for Garrett Jones/John Lackey)

A week before Jason Bay went all concussed on the New York Mets, I was looking for more pop in my lineup.  It wasn’t the ideal time to trade Jason Bay, but I packaged him with the best fantasy closer of 2010, Billy Wagner, and bought low on the Garrett Jones/John Lackey combo.  Which, for future reference, is referred to as ‘Lucky Combo #13’ in fantasy circles.

This was a rare case of addition by subtraction in fantasy sports, which I’ll delve into a little bit more when I get to John Lackey’s write up.  Jones was plagued by an inability to hit lefties all season long (a cringe worthy .220/.261/.360 in 230 plate appearances against lefties in ’10), which led to a semi-platoon in the second half.  But he put up respectable numbers against righties in ’10 (.262/15/59) and, oddly enough, away from the lefty-friendly confines of PNC Park (.265/10/37 with a .744 OPS on the road).

In the long term, Jones will be a fringe keeper (depending on if I’m willing to suck up my pride and cut him outright).  He was a spot starter down the stretch in my INF/OF/UTIL positions, but contributed enough between his 5-10 second half home runs that it paid off for 2010 (as of July 21st, I was tied for 4th in home runs, but finished the season in first by 13).  And no matter how bad he was in the second half, he still contributed more than Jason Bay, who, in 2010, was engulfed by the monster that is the Citifield Fence.  He also received an all expense paid trip to the disabled list on July 26th and didn’t play the rest of the season.

So thank you, Garrett Jones, for not getting hurt and hitting more than zero home runs after I traded for you.

Martin Prado, 2B-3B-1B [ATL] – Acquired via draft, 2010

Prado is the Team MVP for the Meekrats for the 2010 season.  My second overall expansion pick this season, Prado filled a gap that the empty promises of Howie Kendrick and his ever elusive batting titles created each year.

Prado spent various portions of this season on the DL, but still managed to score 100 runs (Howie Kendrick scored 43, 41, and 67 runs in ’08, ’09, and ’10), hit 15 home runs, and hit .307 in 599 at bats.

Prado sure made cutting ties with Howie Kendrick easier when I picked up…

Danny Espinosa, 2B [WAS] – Acquired via waiver wire, September 11, 2010

On September 11th I cut ties with perennial disappointment Howie Kendrick and said hello to what I hope is another core piece to the future of my middle infield.  Espinosa, another Long Beach State alum in the majors, is a slick fielding switch hitting shortstop-turned-second baseman with decent pop.  Between AA and AAA in 2010, Espinosa hit .262/28/69 with 25 stolen bases.  After his call-up, he only hit .214, but managed to swat 6 taters before the end of the season.

Here’s to hoping he develops into a solid 2B/SS instead of a **cough** Howie Kendrick **cough** disappointment.

Elvis Andrus, SS [TEX] – Acquired via draft, 2009

Andrus finished second in the 2009 AL in Rookie of the Year voting, which may have been a wee bit misleading of Andrus’s actual 2009 production.  Andrus posted a meager .702 OPS, while most professionals assumed that the young, thin ball player would fill out and start to drive the ball.  However, for fantasy purposes, Andrus did exactly what I needed him to as he swiped 33 bags during his rookie campaign.  At the time, this was enough for me to ignore the lacking power numbers.

Frustratingly, Andrus took a step back this season only putting up a .643 OPS with zero home runs.  Yes.  Zero.  I guess he didn’t fill out this season.

Andrus did still manage to steal 32 bases, which, for fantasy purposes meant he again served his purpose, but he alarmingly nearly tripled his 2009 caught stealing tally of 6 by getting caught 15 times in ’10.

All things considered, Andrus was still able to contribute to at least one roto category and he was also one of the representatives for Texas in the All-Star game, but that downward trend in 2010 was a little alarming to say the least.  I’m hoping it will just be a tiny statistical hiccup in an otherwise stellar career.

Starlin Castro, SS [CHC] – Acquired via waiver wire, May 11, 2010

I edged out a waiver claim on Castro on May 11th after his May 7th call up.  The 20 year old shortstop was the first Cubs rookie to hit .300 since 1974.  He posted a .755 OPS on the year, which looks to improve as he continues to develop physically.  Of course, I could tell you a story of Elvis Andrus as well.

Between Castro and Andrus, I feel I have two solid shortstops manning my middle infield for years to come.

David Wright, 3B [NYM] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)

Clearly David Wright is my homeboy.  I picked up David Wright in a trade in an attempt to shake my team out of the basement in 2008 (I finished next to last that season, thank you very much).  Josh Hamilton was my 16th round pick in my 2008 draft and after his home run derby binge at Yankee Stadium, I looked to pick up some value.  So I went after All-Star third baseman David Wright.

Wright went on to hit .330/16/54 for the second half of ’08 and even though he hit .307/10/72/27 (AVG/HR/RBI/SB) in a ‘down’ year last season, he rebounded nicely with a .283/29/103/19 campaign in ’10.  Yes, his strikeouts are increasing while his walks are decreasing, which is lowering his OBP, but this is fantasy baseball, not real life.  If he puts up numbers like ’10, I don’t care if every one of his outs is a strikeout.

Wright is one of my core players who, like Shin-Soo Choo below, I feel contributes the statistics that I value in a fantasy baseball player.  He helps everywhere, doesn’t hurt anywhere.

Logan Morrison, LF-1B [FLA] – Acquired via waiver wire, August 13, 2010

And now let’s meet the anti-David Wright, if you will.  Logan Morrison is a deliberate, selective hitter.  He demonstrated as much after his call up to the Marlins this season.  In 287 plate appearances, Morrison drew 41 walks.  If you prorate that over an entire season, that works out to about 107 free passes, which would have been good enough to rank in the top 3 in all of baseball in 2010.  At one point this season, Morrison reached base safely in 42 consecutive games via hit, walk, or hit by pitch.

He is an on base machine.

With his exceptional plate discipline, Morrison’s upside is exciting.  100+ runs, an average around .300, and, hopefully some developing pop that will turn some of his 20 doubles into home runs.

He was a speculative pickup who ended up with a lot more roster time than I initially anticipated because of his ability to get on base.

Carl Crawford, LF [BOS] – Acquired via draft, 2008

Carl was my second overall pick in my inaugural season and has not disappointed statistically (please take note, Travis Hafner.  Yes, I’m still bitter).  He turned in what was arguably his best fantasy season the past three years in 2010 as he posted .307/19/90 with 110 runs and 47 stolen bases.  Crawford is another one of my fantasy favorites.  He’s a roto monster who perennially contributes in every 5×5 category and dominated even more so this season as he set his career high in homers and OPS (.851).

Shin-Soo Choo, LF-RF [CLE] –Acquired via waiver wire, 2009

Choo, Dunn, Wright, and Crawford compose the offensive core of my team that I really feel  represent my fantasy baseball philosophy.  First there’s Dunn, the counting stats ox, and then there’s the class of guys composed of Wright, Crawford, and Choo.  They’re complete fantasy baseball players (and real life ones as well) who contribute in all five roto categories.

After six years of professional baseball, Choo averages .297/.381/.488 and 21/95/18 (HR/RBI/SB) over the course of a 162 game season, making him my best waiver wire claim to date.

Andre Ethier, RF [LAD] – Acquired via draft, 2009

Either is a solid everyday outfielder.  He hits for average (career .291 hitter) and power (22HR/.854 OPS average per 162 game season).  His first half splits this season were amazing as he went out and posted a line of.324/14/54 with a .932 OPS.  He was mashing.

Then he broke his pinky.  And my heart.

Ethier isn’t a sexy pick, but he gives you steady production day in and day out.  A full, healthy season should help his 2011 numbers inch closer to 2009 (.272/31/106) as opposed to 2010 (.292/23/82).

Jay Bruce, RF [CIN] – Acquired via trade, 2009.  [Pablo Sandoval/Brian Wilson for Brandon Inge/Jay Bruce]

Initially I was less than thrilled with this 2009 pre-All-Star break trade.  This was intended to be a trade for more pop in my lineup as I was lagging behind in a few roto counting categories.  However, Brandon Inge lost all of his 1st half power to a knee injury and Pablo Sandoval went on to post a .330/25/90 line, making me cringe every time I saw anything panda related.

It was a dark time in my life, but there was a point when I hated everything about pandas.

Adding insult to injury, the power I traded for in Bruce (18 home runs in the 1st half of 2009) escaped him in the second half and he only hit 4 home runs the rest of way out.  That stung quite a bit.

That being said, I felt much better with that trade this season.  While Inge eventually fell victim to the 2010 waiver wire, Bruce went on to post a  respectable .285/25/70 line this season, but more importantly for me as a keeper league owner, Bruce slugged a line of .277/.352/.574 (BA/OBP/SLG) against lefties this year.  I’m looking for those numbers to continue to improve throughout the 2011 season as well.

And in the end, any closer is expendable.  Even the 2010 league leader in saves.

Drew Stubbs, CF [CIN]Acquired via draft, 2010/Reacquired via waiver wire, May 27, 2010

Going into 2010, Stubbs had the tantalizing promise of speed/power that made fantasy owners weep.  There was, however, the nasty rumor around the water cooler that Stubbs would swing at anything in the greater Cincinnati area.  And thus, Stubbs made fantasy owners weep for another reason as he slumped so hard during the first quarter of 2010 that he was benched.  And thus, he was cut from my fantasy roster on April 20th.  However, the need for another center field eligible player brought the Stubbs dramedy full circle as Max Ramirez made way for the young  outfielder to rejoin the Meekrats.

Watching Stubbs swing can sometimes be a painful experience, but as he proved in the second half, when he’s on, he swings a big stick.  In the second half, Stubbs’s batting average increased from .235 to .281 while his BAbip decreased from .355 to .305.  In the end, if you survived the first half slump with Stubbs, you were rewarded with a more than serviceable final line of .255/22/77/91/30 (AVG/HR/RBI/R/SB).

If Stubbs can exercise a little more discretion at the plate, he could develop into a top tier fantasy outfielder.

Matt Kemp, CF-RF [LAD]Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)

Kemp was a crown jewel in my Hamilton/Cabrera trade.  Kemp is another player projected with the power/speed combo.  And, as you’ve learned, like Charlie Sheen to a hooker, I’m a sucker for those type of players.

Kemp proved a solid 2009 acquisition.  2010 sang a different tune, however.  Kemp lagged behind drastically from his usual statistical production in average (.249.  Ew.) and stolen bases (19 swipes but 15 times caught).  Thus, the tantalizing top ten value of Kemp simply wasn’t there.  His value was decent among center field eligible players (12th overall in Yahoo! ’10), but certainly not worth trading Josh Hamilton (2nd overall in Yahoo! ’10) for.

Let’s hope he gets this Rihanna thing taken care of.

2010 Biggest RegretNot keeping Carlos Gonzalez after the 2009 season.  And then not drafting him back to my roster in 2010.

I actually picked up Carlos off of the waiver wire in 2008 when he was an Oakland prospect and kept him on my roster for the 2009 season because of his noncounting numbers in the minors.  Between 3 AAA seasons, Gonzalez hit .312/.385/.526.  I wasn’t impatient with CarGo, I just wasn’t patient enough.  And while I was pleased with his 2009 line of .284/13/29 in 89 games in ’09, looking at my roster at the beginning of the ’10 season, I was already deep in the outfield and thin at positions around the horn.  This led to the axing of Gonzalez, while I kept the likes of Howie Kendrick and Brandon [Cr]Inge on my roster instead (both of whom were set free into their natural waiver wire habitats before the end of the season).

Gonzalez only went on to post a .336/34/117/26/111 (AVG/HR/RBI/SB/R) MVP caliber season in 2010.  And that’s the reason that I hate team SwingingPasttheKnees.  Carlos should have been mine. If only… if… only.

2010 Best Billy Beane MoveReacquiring Drew Stubbs.

May 27, 2010 may have well been the day that I secured the championship for my fantasy team by claiming Drew Stubbs off the waiver wire.  After his poor performance in the first quarter of the season, Stubbs was too tantalizing just sitting on the waiver wire.  Down the stretch in August and September, when I needed outfield help the most, Stubbs hit .306/9/28, stole 12 bases and posted a .388/.544/.932 (OBP/SLG/OPS) line.  He was aided by an outrageously high BAbip (.413/.407), but I don’t really care because, for fantasy purposes, he got the job done.

So while Torre and Matt Kemp were letting their drama unfold before the country, Drew Stubbs was playing like a champion.  And winning me a championship.

That’s all for the hitters today.  Stay tuned to Ramble On.  Next, I’ll take a look at my pitchers from 2010 on the same Bat-Blog, same Bat Channel.

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2 Responses to Fantasy Baseball 2010 Part 1: The Sticks

  1. […] be given a shot to win the starting catching job in New York next spring.  Montero’s stats, which I discussed here, are completely legit, so it’ll be exciting to see whether or not he can live up to the […]

  2. […] can check out my 2010 review of my roster here, if you’d like to see how things have evolved since last season.  And again, like last year, […]

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