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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.
3/30/2007 03:21:00 PM

Last-minute question marks

Kenny Rogers
Kenny Rogers had 17 wins last season but would've struggled to match that this year.
Chuck Solomon/SI
Just in time for the last of the drafts to be conducted before the season starts (although classic Rotisserie rules state that the draft must be conducted the weekend after Opening Day) comes some late news that should have an impact on your strategy:

Kenny Rogers out three months after shoulder surgery. The Tigers originally called Rogers' injury a "tired arm," but instead he had surgery to remove a blood clot and is out until at least July. Chad Durbin will take his place in the rotation for now, but last year's first-round draft pick Andrew Miller could be in the mix sooner rather than later. Rogers had a solid season last year, save for lack of strikeouts, but also seemed due to fall off. Now, you don't even have to take that risk on The Gambler after all.

Oakland first baseman Dan Johnson is out three months with torn hip cartilage after a collision with the Rockies' Yorvit Torrealba. A good spring had many hoping Johnson would find the stroke he had in 2005 and not the 0-for-30 start to 2006. Now, Johnson won't be back until midseason and the first base job could fall in the hands of Erubiel Durazo, who didn't play in the majors last season, or prospect Daric Barton. Nick Swisher could also move back to first base, but there's already holes in the outfield with Mark Kotsay on the DL as well.

Who's closing for the Devil Rays? Tampa Bay demoted potential closer candidates Seth McClung and Chad Orvella and released veteran reliever Dan Miceli. So your guess is as good as mine as to who's getting saves for the Devil Rays. Best to wait out the situation and just don't grab the guy who gets a save first next week, if the situation should even present itself.

Who's on second for the Devil Rays? Jorge Cantu's poor spring could also earn him a trip to the minors, meaning B.J. Upton might start Opening Day at second. Upton is looking a chance any place he can get, and second could be the place.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
3/29/2007 01:55:00 PM

Early limpers, late risers

Rafael Furcal
This collision made many Rafael Furcal owners cringe.
AP
The season is just a few days away, but there are already plenty of top guys headed to the DL to start the year. For some players the injury could lead to a significant drop in fantasy value. Others you could get cheap if someone overestimates the severity, and in some cases, those needing to set their weekly lineups will be in a bind trying to figure out when those players will return. And for some leagues the official DL tag makes it easier to replace a player on the roster.

Here are some top players likely to start the year on the DL, but who might not be there for too long:

Rafael Furcal, SS, Dodgers: The ankle injury is getting better, but there's a chance he could be on the DL retroactive to last week, meaning he could miss the first few games of the season. That could affect owners deciding whether to start him for the first week.

Freddy Sanchez, 2B/SS/3B, Pirates: The knee injury could force him to miss the first few games, again putting those setting weekly lineups in a bind. And remember, it's hard to believe he'll match last year's NL batting champ performance.

Eric Gagne, P, Rangers: Texas wants to give its closer some extra time to recover from his two seasons of arm trouble, so he'll be back by mid-April. So, those Akinori Otsuka owners are getting saves quicker than expected.

Chone Figgins, 3B/OF, Angels: He'll miss at least the first month of the season with broken fingers, but assuming he returns in early May, he'll still give your team a speed boost. His overall fantasy ranking falls, but don't let him slip too far as long as you could find adequate backups like for April.

Chien-Ming Wang, P, Yankees: His hamstring injury will also keep him out about a month, and now the Yankees are scrambling to find replacements while not yet looking to Phil Hughes or Humberto Sanchez. Wang's value will take a big hit with the injury, and there are doubts about his long-term success with such a low K rate.

Randy Johnson, P, Diamondbacks: The Big Unit will be on the DL the first two weeks recovering from back surgery. The return to the desert is supposed to suit him well, but there will be a bit of a delay in seeing results.

Jered Weaver, P, Angels: While he's expected to return in mid-April from a biceps injury, getting hurt this early in his career may not be the greatest sign, no matter how talented he is.

Freddy Garcia, P, Phillies: A biceps injury has his availability for the first couple of weeks up in the air, so you'll probably want to bench him if you can. Jon Lieber has an oblique injury that will keep him from replacing Garcia in the rotation.

Bartolo Colon, P, Angels: Expect a late April return for Colon, who's still recuperating from a shoulder injury but isn't getting surgery to treat it. Tread very carefully here.

Kenny Rogers, P, Tigers: A dead arm has the veteran lefty on the DL to start the season with Chad Durbin replacing him in the rotation. However, Rogers could be back by April 9, so reserve him for Week 1 and go from there.

Jeremy Hermida, OF, Marlins: The knee injury should keep him out a couple of weeks, and he was already struggling this spring. If he turns into the player many expect, you could get him cheap if the injury issue scares off owners.

Juan Encarnacion, OF, Cardinals: A wrist injury will keep him out a couple of weeks, although he isn't that highly considered a starter even when healthy. He's useful, but you can get him cheaper now.

Taylor Tankersley, P, Marlins: The shoulder injury will keep him out the first couple of weeks of the season, but with Jorge Julio now Florida's closer, Tankersley doesn't have the same fantasy value.

Bill Bray, P, Reds: The guy I like to get saves eventually in Cincinnati will start the year on the DL with a finger injury. You might steal him away cheap if you're speculating on future saves.

On the other end of the spectrum, a decent spring has elevated some players with little chance of making an impact at the start of camp into useful fantasy prospects in AL- or NL-only leagues. Here are a few to watch:

Alejandro De Aza, OF, Marlins: Florida's center field situation has been cleared up, and surprisingly the job went to De Aza, who played 69 games at Double-A last year but was hitting .350 this spring. He beat out Eric Reed and Alex Sanchez for the job. De Aza has some speed (30 total steals last year), which makes him marginally useful, but will the Marlins still look for help elsewhere?

Ross Gload, 1B/OF, Royals: After being stuck on the White Sox bench, Gload will start Opening Day in leftfield over Emil Brown, although it likely will be a platoon situation. Gload bumped himself up from a $1 player to maybe $3 now, so don't get too excited.

Josh Phelps, 1B/DH, Yankees: Thanks to a torrid spring, Phelps may have played himself into the right-hand side of the first base platoon with Doug Mientkiewicz. Phelps has some power - he did hit 20 homers for the Blue Jays in 2003, the year he was on the cover of Baseball Propsectus, and could get some RBI chances in the Yankees lineup. Not a bad choice to fill the back end of your lineup.

Josh Hamilton, OF, Reds: The biggest surprise this spring has found himself a spot on Cincinnati's roster for sure, and he might even start Opening Day if Ken Griffey Jr. isn't ready. While he was a nice late-draft flyer in many leagues earlier this spring, could he be overbid in drafts taking place in the next few weeks?
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3/28/2007 04:38:00 PM

Draft-day quirkiness

Greg Maddux
Greg Maddux is still a useful pitcher, just don't make sure to overload your staff with over-40 pitchers.
AP
We ran through our SI.com fantasy baseball draft yesterday, and rather than bore you with the results (which probably look even stranger than the much-maligned SI draft covered here in recent weeks), I thought I'd share some notable observations of the draft and see how your league compares. While it's good to read up on the results of "experts" drafts, remember that the dynamic of your draft can really get thrown out of whack when one "non-expert" is in the mix.

Look out for the homers. We had fans of all sorts of teams in the draft - Yankees, Red Sox, Mets, Phillies, Marlins, Giants, Devil Rays (yes, they do exist) -- so there was a concerted effort to land hometown heroes. That often means reaching a couple of rounds early to land a desired player, or, in the case of the rabid Yankees fan, picking up four-fifths of their starting rotation.

It's easy to take advantage of that situation by letting top players from other teams fall into your lap while the others focus on their favorites. It's even easier to predict their potential next pick, especially in the early rounds when it's not really reaching to get guys such Miguel Cabrera, Scott Kazmir or Jimmy Rollins (in the case of this draft) and grab them before it reaches their turn. Which leads me to …

Beware the silent assassin. Some people may not have the same rabid ties to a team as others, and by luck of the draw end up drafting near some of the homers. Those people can fire the dagger into the hearts of their fellow owners by taking the stars from the homers' favorite teams. In our draft, one guy stepped in to take Cabrera in front of the Marlins' fan, Robinson Cano from the Yankees' fan and Jonathan Papelbon from the Red Sox fan, drawing the ire (and instant trade requests) from a number of owners.

A similar person to the silent assassin is the owner who seemingly takes the player you targeted the pick before yours. That probably means that your assessment of that player was correct, but it can be frustrating if it happens more than a couple of times.

Raiding the rookies. Everyone hopes to get the next big thing, but some owners will go out of their way and reach for the young stars much earlier than expected. It's one thing to fill the back end of your team with rookies, but one team went for Delmon Young in the sixth round and Alex Gordon in the 13th, long before they were on most owners' radars.

Going with the old reliables. While there are plenty of top stars playing well into their 40s, it does become a bit comical when much of your roster resembles the 1997 All-Star team. Somehow there is some comfort in having Greg Maddux, Tom Glavine and Randy Johnson on your squad, even if they're nowhere near their prime. Just don't draft them like it's '97. And one guy did get ribbed after he selected Ken Griffey Jr. and Sammy Sosa in consecutive rounds. Surprisingly, Craig Biggio was not taken out of more than 300 picks.

Too quick on the trigger. There's nothing wrong with a little delay when it's your turn to pick, as long as you're not taking 2-3 minutes each time around. However, some players may be too prepared, already having a pick lined up once the previous owner has gone. On one hand, that means that few people will steal your pick. On the other hand, that could mean your assessment is so far off the chart compared to others that maybe you could've gotten better value somewhere else. One owner noted that the quickest to draft never win, and that well could be the case. Having done so many drafts already, I've just about fallen in this category.

Have you made your pick yet? On the other end of the spectrum is the very slow drafter who seems to hold up the proceedings. Sometimes they're shuffling through tons of papers or leafing through a magazine, sometimes they're poring over another set of stats on the laptop. One way to police that is taking out a stopwatch, setting a time limit and counting down the seconds to a pick. That will force a quick decision.

Can you hear me now? While having a co-owner can be helpful, it can be an adventure dealing with the other person on the phone the whole way through. It may give a feeling of being in the war room, but while the NFL stretches its selection of 250-300 players over two long days, you'd rather dispense with your draft in a few hours tops.

Degrees of preparation. What do your fellow owners have with them entering the draft room? Some have all their info on a laptop. Others have their own printouts from either their own work, or more likely a cheatsheet or two from a website. Most will have a few magazines with them, often with outdated information (still think Taylor Tankersley is a top closer candidate?). And what other materials do they have? Baseball Prospectus, a stats register, a baseball preview magazine or a fantasy-specific publication? Are they looking at a mock draft (god help those looking over the SI one).

Calling out previously drafted players. It inevitably happens that an owner calls out a guy who was drafted previously. If it happens once or twice with a guy taken no more than a couple of rounds earlier, it's no big deal. Just don't be the person who asks in the 15th round if Jose Reyes has been taken. At least check with someone else in the draft room if a guy's been taken. Does your league "punish" owners for taking already-drafted players?

Do you have any quirky observations or notable personalities that you've seen at your draft? I'll be back with auction-themed draft quirks later on, as there's a much different dynamic involved.
posted by JQ | View comments | Add a comment  
3/27/2007 12:25:00 PM

Let's make a deal

Jorge Julio
Jorge Julio has 99 saves but isn't always a consistent pitcher.
Jeff Gross/Getty Images
Yet another team has solved its closer dilemma, and this time it involves a guy likely not drafted in most leagues so far this spring.

The Marlins picked up Jorge Julio from the Diamondbacks on Monday for starter Yusmeiro Petit, seemingly settling the saves issue and making Henry Owens, Matt Lindstrom and Taylor Tankersley much less valuable.

Julio was Arizona's closer for a stretch last season after being acquired from the Mets for Orlando Hernandez, and had 15 saves. He also saved 83 games in parts of five seasons for the Orioles. He's been inconsistent, but if Joe Borowski can pick up 36 saves for the Marlins, Julio could do the same and will get a lot more attention in NL-only and mixed leagues. (It also makes my final-round speculative pick of Julio in a mixed-league experts draft that much more insightful.)

In a much less significant deal, the Dodgers acquired outfielder Brady Clark from the Brewers for pitcher Elmer Dessens. Clark hit .306 with 13 homers in 2005 but stumbled to .263 with four homers and 29 RBIs last year. Clark had already lost his starting centerfield job to Bill Hall and there was a bit of a logjam on the roster; however, he'll be the fourth outfielder in L.A. with Jason Repko out with a groin injury. Dessens won't be much more than a middle reliever/potential spot starter in Milwaukee. Neither guy warrants much more than a $1-2 bid in NL-only leagues.

Also, where would you take Daisuke Matsuzaka in your draft (or pay for him in auction)? His five hitless innings (but he was wild) on Monday just add to his mystique, and he keeps on rising up the charts -- it almost makes his fifth-round pick in the SI mock draft seem reasonable.
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3/26/2007 02:27:00 PM

Preseason shuffling

Chone Figgins
High-priced speedster Chone Figgins could be out a month.
AP
With Opening Day just about a week away, now we're getting a lot of interesting news from spring training that will have a major impact on your draft strategy. A handful of injuries to top players could drive down their draft value, primarily because they won't be available for the first couple of weeks of the season. However, this could be the time to get a decent star at a discounted price, because some of them can easily make up the production once they return. You'd like to get off to a nice start, but it's a long season, and if you can be patient with a Chone Figgins or Chien-Ming Wang, you might clean up later in the year.

Here's a rundown of some notable fantasy-relevant moves over the past few days:

-- Chone Figgins out up to six weeks with a broken finger. A very popular pick for steals is on the bench for most of April. Maicer Izturis, a sleeper steals guy himself, probably gets more time at third, although Robb Quinlan could play his way into the lineup as well.

-- Chien-Ming Wang out a month with a hamstring injury. Hopefully the injury won't keep him out as long as Brian Bannister for the Mets last year. But for the Yankees, that means Carl Pavano and Kei Igawa are guaranteed spots in the rotation (and one of them might even start Opening Day). Jeff Karstens appeared to be in line to be the fifth spot, but left Sunday's start with elbow stiffness, which could open the door for Darrell Rasner to fill Wang's slot in the rotation. Top prospect Phil Hughes is back in minor league camp, but you have to wonder if he'll get the call sooner rather than later.

-- Freddy Sanchez may start the year on the DL. Knee issues have kept the reigning NL batting champ out of the lineup for most of the spring. When he returns he'll be playing second with Jose Bautista winning the starting third base job and Jose Castillo headed to the bench. However, Castillo would be back at second if Sanchez remains hurt. Sanchez is a slightly better value for fantasy owners at second instead of third.

-- Dmitri Young to start at first base for the Nationals. Travis Lee was let go, allowing Young to be the main man for now until Nick Johnson returns in June. Young still has a decent bat and is probably a better bet than Robert Fick, but don't pay too much for him in NL-only leagues.

-- Mike Pelfrey named Mets' fifth starter. With a good offense behind him, Pelfrey, one of the Mets' top prospects, could put up a decent wins totals, even as the No. 5 guy in Shea. He's worth a few bucks in NL-only leagues and a better bet, no matter what, than Aaron Sele or Chan Ho Park.

-- Freddy Garcia improving. After leaving a start last week with biceps tendonitis, Garcia may still start in the first week of the season. The Phillies do need him since bullpen-bound Jon Lieber has gone down with an oblique injury. Garcia is a workhorse, and the news should keep his value pretty high.

-- John Danks earns a spot in the White Sox rotation. The pitcher acquired in the Brandon McCarthy deal beat out Gavin Floyd and Charlie Haeger for the No. 5 role in Chicago if you're looking for arms who should get innings. Floyd and Haeger likely will still get their chance if Danks can't cut it right away.

-- Royals demote Angel Berroa. Last year's starting shortstop was sent down after Kansas City acquired Tony Pena Jr. from the Braves, who will take his place. Pena has a good glove, but hasn't done much with the bat during short stints in Atlanta. However, if you do need some steals but not a lot else, Pena is worth a few bucks.

-- Jeremy Hermida out indefinitely with bone bruise in knee. Injuries really cut into Hermida's time last season, and now we're seeing more of the same. He had struggled this spring before the injury anyway. Joe Borchard and Cody Ross could split time in left and get a brief spike in value with extra at-bats.

-- Jerome Williams and Matt Chico join the Nationals' rotation. If you're desperate for starting pitching, here are two guys who won spots in this spring's arms lottery. Williams is a former Giants prospect still looking for his chance, while Chico has never pitched above Double-A. But for now, they'll get innings.

-- Nook Logan out two weeks with groin injury. Another sleeper speed guy is out with an injury, with the Nationals starting Chris Snelling or Kory Casto in left and Ryan Church in center along with Austin Kearns. Logan is the player fantasy owners would want cheaply, but former M's prospect Snelling could be a surprise.

With spring training winding down, there's still plenty of lineup shuffling left, so whatever draft strategies you might have can still be tweaked.
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