A lot of fantasy baseball is luck. Yes, there are countless hours that I spend reading articles, watching games, and listening to podcasts. In the end, however, success in fantasy baseball comes down to doing your homework and then having the Baseball Gods smile upon your decisions. Anyone who plays fantasy baseball knows that Adam Dunn has smacked at least 38 homers a year for the past eight seasons. Sadly, the Baseball Gods frowned upon Adam Dunn (and my homer total) in 2011.
So I didn’t finish atop of the league as I did last season. I was king of the hill for a good chunk of this year, but in the end my pitching couldn’t repeat the stellar numbers that they posted in 2010. So I’ll settle for a second place finish. And even though my pitching numbers were a bit down from last year, considering the stellar year I had on the bump in ’10, those numbers would’ve been incredibly difficult to repeat.
You 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, I only posted the final roster. I was thinking about including a few add/drops like Aaron Crow or the ever endearing (and now platooning) Garrett Jones. However, no one cares about the narrative. They just want to get to the good part. So without further delay, here are the bats that carried me to success in 2011. The arms will be soon to follow.
Victor Martinez, C-1B [DET] – Acquired via draft, 2008
Ol’ Faithful. Victor produces year in and year out with the most consistent numbers at one of the hardest fantasy and real life baseball positions to fill. Victor was the top ranked fantasy catcher in baseball for the 2011 season, after hitting .330/12/103 with 76 runs scored. His first base eligibility also helped fill the void that Adam Dunn and his statistical black hole produced this year.
Carlos Santana, C-1B [CLE] – Acquired via draft, 2010
One thing everyone was sure Carlos Santana would do when he arrived in the Bigs was hit for average. Well, his .239 average left a lot to be desired at the end of the year. However, amongst catchers, his 27 home runs finished second behind Mike Napoli, and his 79 RBI finished fourth. Those numbers made his subpar average a little bit easier to swallow, but I’m still hoping for a lot of growth next season from the 4th ranked fantasy catcher of 2011.
Wilson Ramos, C [WAS] – Acquired via waiver wire, April 12, 2011
Ramos quietly hovered around the top 10 realm of fantasy catchers this season, but fell just short at 12. Still a superb waiver pickup, Ramos only has room to grow. While I have absolutely no need to roster a third catcher and too many players to keep for next season already, I wouldn’t hesitate to pick him back up at the end of the re-draft next season.
Adam Dunn, 1B [CWS] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Robinson Cano for Adam Dunn)
Hindsight is always 20/20. There’s no need to talk about Adam Dunn. Maybe if I don’t talk about it, that will make it disappear.
If he makes it back to the Adam Dunn of old, I will dance in the street. If he produces next year like he did this year, I may lie down in the street.
Brandon Belt, 1B-OF [SF] – Acquired via trade, April 18, 2011 (Andrew Bailey for Brandon Belt and Daniel Bard)
Bruce Bochy, you are one frustrating man. Belt was probably the third, if not second, best hitter in San Francisco’s lineup and he was jerked around more than a kid in a custody battle. In a meager 187 at bats this season, Belt managed a .225/9/18 line. The pop was definitely there and I think, given regular plate appearances, Belt could turn into a solid first base option, à la Mark Trumbo.
Martin Prado, 2B-3B-LF [ATL] – Acquired via draft, 2010
His multi-position eligibility was helpful. His time on the DL wasn’t. Prado filled in admirably when he was healthy, but glancing at his 2010 numbers (.301/15/66 with 100 runs) and comparing them to his 2011 numbers (.260/13/57 with 66 runs), Prado didn’t take the step forward to top-tier fantasy player I hoped he would make.
Danny Espinosa, 2B [WAS] – Acquired via draft, 2011
I don’t want to say I tossed Espinosa to the curb at the end of last season, because I dropped Howie Kendrick so I could pick him up. However, I was fairly confident I could redraft him if I threw him back, which let me keep some extra pitching I was sure I would need this year. So re-draft I did and I was rewarded with one of the hottest starts in baseball. From March 31 to July 10, Espinosa hit .242/16/52 with 12 stolen bases. That’s a rigorous pace. Sadly, this pace was quickly followed by one of the coldest stretches in all of baseball after the All-Star Break. From July 15 – September 28, Espinosa hit .227/5/14 with a .310 OBP and 5 stolen bases and 4 caught stealing.
Fortunately that cold spell was eased a bit when I went to the waiver wire and picked up…
Jason Kipnis, 2B [CLE] – Acquired via waiver wire, July 12, 2011
I fell in love with Kipnis’s swing from the moment I saw it. It was a raw, passionate love that I grabbed by the horns and I haven’t looked back since. Kipnis has one of the smoothest swings in baseball. It’s almost, dare I say, Griffey-esque. If Kipnis’s numbers after his first year are any indication, I’m in for quite the production at second base for the next few years. Following his call-up on July 22, Kipnis posted a solid .272/7/19 slash line in 136 at bats and managed to steal 5 bases without being caught.
I got so excited by that potential, my nipples just got rock hard.
Elvis Andrus, SS [TEX] – Acquired via draft, 2009
You may notice a gaping hole at shortstop if you looked at my roster from last year and compared it to my roster at the end of this year. Out of necessity, I was forced to trade Starlin Castro for some pitching. That left me with Elvis Andrus and the good, but not quite spectacular, Alexi Ramirez, to man the middle of my infield.
Elvis did exactly what I needed him to do: stole a career-high 37 bases while hitting .279 and only striking out 74 times.
Alexei Ramirez, SS [CWS] – Acquired via trade, August 13, 2011 (Starlin Castro, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Trumbo for Alexei Ramirez, Chris Young, Gio Gonzalez, and Mat Latos)
Alexei filled in admirably for Starlin in my infield, hitting .285/3/21 down the stretch after I picked him up. He won’t make me forget trading Starlin Castro over the next couple of years, but with Alexei you get consistent production year in and year out. You also get the amazement of watching that beanpole swing like crazy and whack home runs into other area codes.
David Wright, 3B [NYM] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)
There’s no arguing that when Wright is healthy he’s one of the game’s best at the hot corner. Keeping him healthy this season, however, proved a challenge. After amassing over 500 at bats every season since 2005, Wright hit the shelf this year and finished the season with 389 at bats. He posted a serviceable .254/14/61 line with 14 stolen bases. Good, but not what you expect from a first or second round player. Hopefully Wright shakes that bad joojoo before next season.
But because of David Wright’s midseason injury, I was forced to trade for…
Alex Gordon, 3B-LF [KC] – Acquired via trade, June 12, 2011 (Andre Ethier for Alex Gordon)
I was in obvious need of some help at 3B because of Wright’s lack of production/injuries this year. I’ve had an overabundance of outfielders for the last few seasons, so I figured this was my year to try and make a move. A combination of feeling leery about Ethier’s situation in LA and watching Alex Gordon produce, led to an Ethier for Gordon swap that helped keep my team in contention throughout the 2011 season. While Gordon will more than likely lose his 3B eligibility next season, he was a great fit in my lineup this year.
From his date of arrival on June 12, Gordon hit .320/16/53 in 88 games. His OPS was an overwhelming .931 over that stretch. While his numbers were somewhat inflated because of a super-friendly .371 BAbip, just watching the kid play, you can tell he’s turned a corner professionally.
Carl Crawford, LF [BOS] – Acquired via draft, 2008
Crawford grossly underperformed this season. That’s been well documented. His .255/11/56 season ending line with only 18 steals was one of the most disappointing seasons in recent fantasy history after all the hype surrounding his arrival in Boston. But it did help open the door for playing time on my roster for another left fielder…
Logan Morrison, LF [FLA] – Acquired via draft, 2011
… Mr. Logan Morrison. He isn’t a big-name guy outside of the Twitterverse. He isn’t a big-name fantasy player. He’s the anti-sexy fantasy pick. But Logan Morrison is one thing, if he’s anything: a consistent producer. Despite a dip in average (.247) and walks (54 in 525 plate appearances versus 41 in 287 PAs last season) and an increase in K’s (99 in 525 PAs versus 51 in 287 PAs last season), LoMo still managed an OPS+ of 116 and popped 23 homers with 72 RBI. His 23homers were the 12th best among left fielders this past season and I think you’ll see his RBI and runs increase next season as his sabermetric numbers increase closer to what LoMo is capable of producing over the course of a drama-free year.
Matt Kemp, CF [LAD] – Acquired via trade, 2008 (Brett Myers/Miguel Cabrera/Josh Hamilton for David Wright/Matt Kemp/Jake Peavy)
MVP! MVP! MVP! Kemp has grown into everything I hoped he would when I traded for him back in my first year in this league. Kemp posted a sick .324/39/126. On top of that, he stole 40 bases, scored 115 runs, and a .986 OPS while quietly chasing the Triple Crown.
That’s a complete player stuck smack-dab in the middle of my outfield in one of the hardest offensive positions in our fantasy baseball league to fill productively. He almost made up for Carl Crawford and his lack of production this year on his own.
Chris Young, CF [ARI] – Acquired via trade, August 13, 2011 (Starlin Castro, Drew Stubbs, and Mark Trumbo for Alexei Ramirez, Chris Young, Gio Gonzalez, and Mat Latos)
Young didn’t overly impress from the time I acquired him, hitting .211/3/14 from August 13th on. However, an average season for Young yields a .240/24/76 with 21 stolen bases. While his numbers don’t overwhelm you, when he goes through a hot-stretch, he’s a must start. For a thin crop of center fielders, Young will give you four out of five categories, which is good enough for a spot with the Meekrats.
Jay Bruce, RF [CIN] – Acquired via trade, 2009. [Pablo Sandoval/Brian Wilson for Brandon Inge/Jay Bruce]
Jay Bruce is slowly turning into a consistent fantasy player after finishing in the top 10 for his position (RF) this season. Bruce went on his typical hot and cold streaks this season to finish with a final line of .256/32/97. He added 84 runs and 8 swipes to his solid fantasy season as well. Bruce managed to hit .240/11/41 against lefties this season, and while that is down from his line last year, consider that in 2009 he hit .210/2/14 against lefties. At 24 years of age, the sky is the limit for this fantasy stalwart.
DL Shin-Soo Choo, RF [CLE] –Acquired via waiver wire, 2009
Injury. Lame stats. Story of my offense. I’m so over Choo.
I’m sorry. I didn’t mean that.
2011 Boneheaded Move of the Year
Continuing to play Adam Dunn long after he demonstrated that he wasn’t going to produce at all this season.
2011 Snake in the Grass Award
Acquiring Alex Gordon for Andre Ethier right before Gordon took off and Ethier fell off.
Call it baseball intuition, but I had a sneaky suspicion that I had ridden the Andre Ethier Train to the end of the tracks and I was a little trigger-happy to move him. I was looking for a player with a little upside and third base eligibility when Alex Gordon popped right onto my radar. After trading for Gordon, he went on to hit .320/16/53 for me while Ethier hit the DL for a while and only managed to hit .260/6/30 with a .720 OPS from June 12th on.