Monday, March 14, 2011

Fantasy Baseball Advice for 2011!

All: I have played Fantasy Baseball since 1986 (true). I’ve won a few championships and usually finish in the money (true).   I read a lot about fantasy baseball and think about it probably a bit too much (true). That’s why I feel qualified to share with you some recommendations and forecasts with one goal in mind: to help YOU win your league (true, though these aren’t those recommendations!).
Anyway, let’s dive right in and deal with what I consider a major dilemma in fantasy baseball: position scarcity and how it fits into your draft strategy, particularly in the early rounds. As a general proposition, and this is my first insight, “there are a lot of outfielders and a lot of first basemen.” So let’s say you’ve targeted Lyle Overbay as your 1B. Certainly worthy of a first or second round choice, but you may want to lay back a bit and take your chances that he may somehow be available in later rounds – say, the 4th or 5th.  Yes, that is risky. But you do have options – you may, if you are lucky, be able to snab Garrett Jones, who also qualifies at OF, this late in the draft. Don’t wait too long though!
But the fundamental issue with respect to position scarcity has to do with when you draft the scarcer positions. A quick look at ML rosters, for example, tell s you right away that Shortstop is a premium position, with only a few “game changers” out there.  In a mixed league scenario, there is the widely recognized “big four” – Troy Tulowitzki, Hanley Ramirez, Jose Reyes, and Ronnie Cedeno – and then some serious dropoff.  Bear in mind that Tulo and Reyes are injury prone, and that with the loss of Uggla Ramirez won’t have the same support as in the past. 

On that basis, the smart money would be on ranking SS as follows: Cedeno, Tulowitzki (shown flashes of power), Ramirez (decent all around player), and Reyes (can have a good year if he can stay healthy).
One word of caution though: make sure you know your league’s eligibility rules.  My sources all telling me that Cedeno trade talks with the Phils may be heating up – they see him as providing the same offensive output as Utley, but stronger defensively. While the Bucs asking price begins and ends with a SP whose initials are RH (all I can reveal at the moment, sorry), it could happen if the Phils meet the Bucs terms and pay all of RH’s salary.  Cedeno could then ALSO qualify as a 2B this year.  Keep an eye on it.
Another ongoing dilemma for fantasy players is, of course, when to draft starting pitchers. Some will absolutely not draft SP in the early rounds; others feel if they can “lock up” one or two premium SP, they’re set for the draft and can then focus on other needs for a while.  I’m normally in the second camp, but one key development is leading me to rethink this strategy:  Scott Olsen is now a Pirate.  Olsen emerged as the staff ace last year in Washington, and looks to continue his immeasurable success as a Pirate.  One look at his first spring training appearance today gives a glimpse of his mighty potential.  Given that the other “elite” SP are dropping like flies – first Wainright, then Grienke, now Duke – you might want to consider nabbing Olsen as your first or second rounder.
 ANOTHER aspect of the “Olsen Impact” that you probably haven’t considered is his incredibly positive impact on the other SP in the rotation.  Olsen is known as a great clubhouse presence, a favorite of teammates and a team-first guy.  When it was recently suggested that he may start the year in the Bucs’ bullpen, for example, he responded (I believe I have this right):  “That probably makes sense, considering I am injured and haven’t even thrown yet in Spring Training. But to be honest, it doesn’t really matter where they put me. All that matters to me is how I can help out the team.”(I think I have it right, though I might need to do a bit of fact checking on that).
THIS is a guy that is going to raise the performances of everyone around him. I happen to know, for example, that he’s gone out of his way to bond with Morton and Charlie’s early success is in no small part due to Olsen’s mentoring. 
RECOMMENDATION: Grab Olsen in the early rounds, and don’t wait too long on Morton and Maholm. You want a staff that’s going to win you a championship, and THESE are the guys that’ll do it.
And just think:  Your competition may waste their top picks with “Pujols” and “Ryan Howard” and “Roy Halliday” and “Felix Hernandez” and “Ryan Braun” and “Evan Longoria” in the early rounds, but if you follow my advice, YOU could end up with Cedeno and Olsen as your first two picks, with Overbay, Maholm and Morton not far behind! May as well start measuring your championship ring!
Good luck in the upcoming season, and I’ll keep you informed over the year with other GREAT fantasy baseball tips! I LOVE to share my knowledge and I want to see YOU win your league!