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Join SI.com's James Quintong in a discussion of some of the latest news in football, baseball and other sports and how it relates to fantasy teams and leagues.
3/02/2007 06:27:00 PM

Auction values analyzed

Joe Nathan
If you want Joe Nathan to shore up saves, you'll have to pay a lot for him.
Straight drafting is still the easiest and most popular way to put together your fantasy team, but auction drafting is both a science and an art unto itself. While there will be some results from some other high-profile auction drafts later this month, here is a list of average auction values for the top 400 players from drafts (5x5, mixed league, 23 players) conducted on FantasyAuctioneer.com.

Some thoughts from the results:
-- If you want Johan Santana, you'll have to pay a lot for him. He already ranks among the top 5-10 players in regular drafts, but he gets the No. 2 overall nod in auctions with a major dropoff in production after him (nearly a $13 difference between Santana and Chris Carpenter, the next starting pitcher).

-- The stud closers are usually ranked in the 40-50 range in regular drafts, but based on auction values, they start going in the top 25 range. Many owners will pay big bucks for saves. Of course others try to do some bargain hunting or play the speculation card with cheaper middle relievers and setup men. Jonathan Papelbon's value ($26.63) is very intriguing as his price as a starter should be less than if he remained a closer.

-- Starting pitchers in general are going for high prices, especially compared to position players. Their rank, according to dollar values, look a lot different compared to a straight draft. There's a lot of rolling of the dice on Daisuke Matsuzaka (average $16.78). While he had a good year, Bronson Arroyo is an interesting price at $15.27, especially compared to teammate Aaron Harang at $11.06.

-- How the mighty have fallen: Todd Helton is on the downswing, but his $10.06 average value ranks only 120th overall and behind such players as Paul LoDuca, Ray Durham and Mark Teahen.

-- Speed does come at a premium, but not as much as I might've thought, with Juan Pierre ranking 67th in price at $16.45. However, people are willing to pay for the high average and high steals for Ichiro ($27.71, ranked 22nd).

-- There is some restraint among bidding up young stars, although Jered Weaver is going for $19.29. Otherwise, Delmon Young is going for $9.34, Cole Hamels at $9.33, Howie Kendrick for $5.55, Chuck James at $5.25, Alex Gordon at $4.13 and Arizona's Chris Young at $3.88.

-- Notable veterans who should still produce but are going cheap include Ken Griffey Jr. ($2.93), Marcus Giles ($2.27), Brian Giles ($2.00). Also interesting how close Randy Johnson ($4.93) and Greg Maddux ($4.90) are in draft value.
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3/01/2007 06:06:00 PM

NFL offseason revolving door

Tatum Bell
Detroit-bound Tatum Bell had his first 1,000-yard rushing season in 2006 despite sharing time with Mike Bell.
Peter Read Miller/SI
While the gap between the end of the regular season and the start of the free-agent shopping season is about the same in both baseball and football (approximately two months), it only just seems like there isn't that much of an offseason break in the NFL these days, thanks in part to the draft hoopla and the recently completed combine.

And now comes the free-agency period, which will have a definite impact on fantasy fortunes come next fall. But even before the first set of players could switch teams, there were already a number of moves already drawing fantasy attention (never mind the plethora of rumors flying around, especially Randy Moss and Willis McGahee):

-- Lions acquire Tatum Bell and George Foster from Broncos for Dre Bly: Denver gets a top corner in Bly to replace Darrent Williams while churning another running back through its system. Bell became the latest Denver back to crack 1,000 yards, but he had just two scores, while undrafted free agent Mike Bell finished with eight TDs. The speedy Bell gives Detroit at least a safety blanket as Kevin Jones is no guarantee with his major foot injury that ended his 2006 prematurely. Bell has been itching for a true feature role for a couple of years and could get it in Detroit. For now, his value goes up, especially for keeper leagues. Over in Denver, Mike Bell appears poised to be the No. 1 back for good, although you never know who else will join the running back brigade, either in the draft or free agency. The addition of Bly gives the Broncos a formidable 1-2 punch in the secondary with Champ Bailey. That could mean more interceptions.

-- Chargers cut Keenan McCardell; Saints cut Joe Horn: Both veteran receivers showed why older wideouts can be risky picks. McCardell slid really badly and was basically a useless fantasy player by year's end. Horn battled injuries as well as the rise of young wideouts like Marques Colston and Devery Henderson. McCardell may not have much value no matter where he goes, while Horn still has a bit left in the tank to contribute somewhere, whether it's New Orleans or another team. Horn's value might be higher if he lands somewhere other than New Orleans, though, given the deserving youngsters on the roster.

-- Texans cut Eric Moulds: Andre Johnson is still the man in Houston, but Moulds could only muster 557 yards and 57 catches (less than 10 yards a reception) with one TD as the No. 2 guy. There really isn't anyone else beyond that. Moulds' best days are long behind him, but who's going to line up opposite Johnson next year, and more importantly, who's going to throw him the ball?

-- Jaguars re-sign Fred Taylor to three-year deal: This was an interesting move, especially given how well Maurice Jones-Drew played last season (15 total TDs, streak of eight straight games with a score to end the season). But two-RB systems are popular, and the Jags will have two solid guys who can produce decent numbers but at the expense of each other. If last year is any indication, Jones-Drew is the first Jags back you want, but Taylor is worth having for some yards.

-- Jets sign Jerricho Cotchery to extension: Cotchery had a breakout 2006 campaign, catching 82 passes for 961 yards and six TDs playing opposite Laveranues Coles. With Chad Pennington officially getting the starting nod, the Jets enter the offseason with a very dependable passing game. Cotchery appears to be a solid No. 2 or 3 fantasy receiver in 2007. The running game, on the other hand, well, that's what this time of year is for. For what it's worth, the Chargers are expected to slap a high price tag to pry away restricted free agent Michael Turner.

-- Ravens cut Jamal Lewis: While it appears the team will sign their long-time running back to a lesser deal, Lewis is nowhere close to the back who rushed for 2,000 yards. He has his moments, but he's definitely nowhere near the elite backs anymore. He's probably iffy as a No. 2 fantasy back as well.

-- Chiefs sign Damon Huard to three-year deal: A very intriguing move by Kansas City, and it could mean Trent Green moves on. Huard had 11 TD passes and just one pick filling in for the injured Green in the first half of the season. Even if Huard should become the starter, it's hard to believe he'd be much more than a No. 2 fantasy quarterback. While Tony Gonzalez signed a long-term deal early in the offseason, the receiving corps is still a major question mark.

And this is just the start. Just wait until free agents can actually sign.
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3/01/2007 01:30:00 PM

Let the games begin

Taylor Tankersley
Lefty Taylor Tankersley is a main contender to take over as the Marlins closer but currently has shoulder issues.
Chuck Solomon/SI
It's great to see the first spring training games trickling through on TV, even if it is just token at-bats or innings from the established players, with most of the contests decided by youngsters wearing uniform numbers usually reserved for offensive and defensive linemen. But it's probably not a good sign when Oliver Perez is giving up a homer to Ryan Raburn (wearing No. 68).

Even with just a handful of games going down, there is some notable news that could have a big impact on your draft strategy:

-- Hurting Marlins' arms: Taylor Tankersley, the early favorite for saves heading into camp, has been shut down with shoulder problems. Ex-Angel Kevin Gregg suddenly is looking more like a legitimate closer candidate. Matt Lindstrom and Henry Owens are also in the mix. So there are some flyers to take in NL-only leagues, but mixed leaguers should avoid this situation for now.

On the other side of the staff, Josh Johnson's arm woes are becoming more of a concern. His forearm was troubling him before spring training and now there are some elbow issues that could keep him out for Opening Day and maybe even longer. Johnson's value is taking a hit after a solid rookie season.

-- More closer issues: Bobby Jenks left his first spring outing Wednesday with a tight shoulder. For now, it doesn't look serious, but it does mean you should at least keep in mind the guys next in line. In the case of the White Sox, it's Mike MacDougal.

-- Surprisingly, last year's NL batting champ, Freddy Sanchez, has yet to settle on a position in camp. Sanchez is eligible at second, short and third, so the position flexibility is nice. But for now, he's bouncing around a couple of positions on the infield as the Pirates figure out what to do with Jose Bautista and Jose Castillo. The flexibility is the main factor in Sanchez's value this year since most people don't expect him to match last year's .344 mark. And with only six homers and three steals, his main value comes in average.

-- Bobby Abreu will miss 2-3 weeks with a strained oblique muscle, and while it could make him a question mark for Opening Day, it doesn't look like the injury should affect his value for the season. He has played at least 151 games a season since 1998. You'd like to see Abreu get a little bit of work during the spring, although a veteran like him may not need as much time to get prepared for the season. The injury does give Melky Cabrera a chance to show off his stuff in the spring to follow up a nice stint with the Yankees late last season.

-- Adam Wainwright's transition back to a starter from a reliever started well on Wednesday as he threw just 30 pitches in three hitless innings against the Marlins. Jonathan Papelbon is getting the most attention moving from the bullpen to the rotation, but Wainwright shouldn't be forgotten either.
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2/27/2007 04:12:00 PM

The WBC and spring training, one year later

Jeff Francoeur
Jeff Francoeur had a decent 2006 after a slow start partly because he had just six at-bats at the World Baseball Classic.
Brad Mangin/SI
The World Baseball Classic may have catapulted Daisuke Matsuzaka into the international spotlight and offered many players a chance to represent their country. But with the next WBC not scheduled until 2009, many players are actually happy that they have a chance to enjoy a "normal" spring training this season.

The break in spring training for the WBC affected players in a number of ways last year. Several pitchers not prepared enough to handle the rigors of games that were more "important" than your run-of-the-mill exhibition contest suffered arm injuries. In fact, Nationals setup man Luis Ayala was lost for the season after injuring his arm during the WBC while former Washington teammate Gary Majewski said lingering soreness from the event led to a DL stint later in the season.

The preparation process during offseason and spring training is key, and any changes can have lasting effects throughout the season beyond just injury. Francisco Cordero said he rushed his offseason preparation to play in the WBC. However, a shoulder injury kept him out of the tournament, and once the regular season rolled around, he struggled early and lost his closer's job in Texas. While he regained fantasy value as Milwaukee's stopper, the Brewers are being very cautious this spring to make sure he's good and effective for the long haul.

Brad Lidge, also said that the WBC cut into his preparation time, and that showed in his wildly inconsistent 2006 season. And while it didn't really hurt his numbers last season, Johnny Damon recently said he had a nagging shoulder injury most of the spring while getting ready for the WBC. And Jorge Sosa, trying to land a job with the Mets, blamed the extra winter league and WBC work for his precipitous drop from a 13-3, 2.55 ERA 2005 season with the Braves to a 3-11, 5.42 ERA 2006 with Atlanta and St. Louis.

Meanwhile, Esteban Loaiza suffered an awful start in Oakland (0-3, 8.35 ERA, 2.13 WHIP in April) last season because he spent most of his time with the Mexican team at the WBC. A full spring with the team could lead to at least a marginally better first month.

The disruption in training can be tolerated as long as you're getting regular action. However, sitting the bench also can't be of much help, either. For instance, Jeff Francoeur and Matt Holliday had just six at-bats each for Team USA, while Mark Teixeira went 0-for-15. That lack of playing time led to somewhat slow starts for all players, although all finished with decent seasons. The streaky Francoeur really struggled in April (.216-4-14) but eventually hit 29 homers and 103 RBIs. Holliday was a bit better than Francoeur but was also spotty at times to open the season (.262-4-24), although he finished with monster stats. Teixeira only hit three homers in April and nine before the All-Star break but then hit 24 after that.

A couple of other top players with limited WBC time who had relatively slow starts last season included Jose Reyes (six WBC at-bats; .250 average in April and May but 20 steals by then) and Pedro Feliz (six WBC at-bats; .207-2-14 in April). On the other hand, Alex Rios only got eight at-bats at the WBC but then exploded in April (.362-6-19-1.063 OPS), his best month of the year.

Lack of playing time also resonated among pitchers, who were supposed to be on a much shorter leash, specifically Carlos Silva, who expected more mound time and appeared in just two games. That disruption dropped Silva's stats from 9-8, 3.44 ERA in 2005 to 11-15 with a 5.94 ERA (including a 10.31 ERA in April).

Many of the players on this list are rather young, so it's unclear if the WBC disruption really affected their games or if they're just slow starters. However, having a full spring training under their belts could mean quicker starts and potentially better stats consistently throughout the season. So while you might take the exhibition stats with a grain of salt, just remember how important spring training is once the season starts.
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