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2011 Fantasy Rankings: Third Basemen

All 2011 Fantasy Articles | 2011 Position Rankings

Third base: it’s almost as bad as shortstop.

In retrospect, we’d like to add a twelfth MLB player we would not want to be in 2011, and that is Jose Bautista. Going undrafted in most leagues, he scored over 200 points more than any other third basemen in one of our leagues last season, which means he now has a giant fantasy bullseye on his chest, and if he doesn’t finish in the top five among third basemen this year, he’ll be considered a bust. The reason? The sixth-ranked third baseman in the draft projections is a second baseman (Martin Prado). Yikes.

San Francisco Giants 3B Pablo Sandoval watches a splash home run head for the water as Arizona Diamondbacks catcher John Hester (L) looks on at AT&T Park in San Francisco on September 30, 2010. The Giants completed a sweep of the Diamondbacks with a 4-1 victory. UPI/Terry Schmitt

“Ski-doosh.”

But fear not, fellow roto-geeks. There are some bargain picks to be had at the hot corner once the big five (Evan Longoria, Alex Rodriguez, David Wright, Ryan Zimmerman, and Bautista) are off the board. Obviously your best bet is to get one of them, but if that is not an option, stock up on as many other positions as you can, and with some luck, these men below will hopefully keep you competitive.

Kevin Youkilis, Red Sox
The Greek God of Walks will obviously do more than just keep you competitive, but you’ll need to wait a few games (ten in most leagues) before you can play him there. Once he’s set, though, just sit back and enjoy the show. And by the show, we mean the shots of Youkilis cursing at himself on the bench whenever he makes an out. Competitive bugger, that Youkilis.

Pablo Sandoval, Giants
The Panda lost 38 pounds this offseason, and is already tearing the cover off the ball in spring training. We love players who have something to prove, and after compiling a limp .268-61-13-63 stat line in 2010, Sandoval is that guy. But is he really sloted to bat eighth in the order? That’s a little disconcerting.

Aramis Ramirez, Cubs
Contract year, ahoy! Yes, the Cubs have an option for 2012, but it’s at $16 million, and it will only be guaranteed if Ramirez wins the MVP or the Cubs go to the World Series. (In other words, it will not be guaranteed.) He looked like his old self by year’s end after a putrid first half, and with the addition of Carlos Pena, the Cubs lineup has the potential to be dangerous. It could also implode at a moment’s notice – witness yesterday’s dugout dispute, which involved the normally laid-back Ramirez – but we expect Aramis to sing for his supper.

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Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @TheScoresReport. You can also follow TSR editor Gerardo Orlando @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom, and you can follow TSR editor Anthony Stalter @AnthonyStalter.

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2011 Fantasy Rankings: Shortstops

All 2011 Fantasy Articles | 2011 Position Rankings

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. Shortstop is the new second base, a fantasy wasteland where only six (!) players are projected to be drafted in the first ten rounds. Six, out of a hundred. That’s bad.

New York Yankees’ shortstop Derek Jeter warms up before the Yankees take on the Texas Rangers in game four of the ALCS at Yankee Stadium on October 19, 2010 in New York. UPI/Monika Graff

“Hello. I’m Derek Jeter, and you’re not.”

Worse, only five of those players are proven fantasy performers year after year, and even that is stretching the truth until it nearly breaks. Truth be told, there is one guy in this group (Hanley Ramirez) that has held up as a reliable fantasy stud. The rest are streaky, as in ‘Will Ferrell in “Old School”‘ streaky. (Tulo, we’re looking at you.) What is a fantasy manager to do once Hanley and Troy Tulowitzki are off the board? For starters, don’t panic, and for God’s sake don’t reach. Continue to take the best guy on the board, and see if one of these guys lands in your lap.

Jose Reyes, Mets
The late, great Sparky Anderson once said, “Just give me 25 guys on the last year of their contracts; I’ll win a pennant every year.” You think he wouldn’t love to have Reyes this year, since he’s essentially auditioning for all of Major League Baseball? The Mets are so bogged down with money issues that there has even been speculation that they will have a hard time paying their players, which makes the likelihood of a contract extension to Reyes unlikely. Meanwhile, the shortstop of the Red Sox, Marco Scutaro, has a player option on his contract for next year, which the club could buy out for $1.5 million. Don’t think for a minute that Reyes doesn’t know this, and will bust his ass to get him some Carl Crawford money. Having said that, don’t bid the moon and the stars to get him. If he comes to you, great. If not, then take a look at…

Marco Scutaro, Red Sox
Reyes’ 2010 stat line was .282-83-11-54-30. Scutaro’s line was .275-92-11-56-5. Nearly identical in every category except steals, and he can be had 11 rounds after Reyes is off the board. If you play in a points league and Reyes is gone, take a deep breath, and remember that the next best thing is a mere 110 picks away. Scutaro is the textbook definition of a value pick, even if he spends the entire year in the 9-hole.

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2011 Fantasy Rankings: First Basemen

All 2011 Fantasy Articles | 2011 Position Rankings

Here is how deep the first base pool has become: the guy who finished fourth statistically among first basemen, and who hit more home runs than every first baseman not named Albert Pujols, is ranked 12th in CBS’s projections for 2011 (14th if you count two 1B-eligible catchers). Twelve first basemen are projected to knock in over 100 runs (nine accomplished this feat last year), and 11 are projected to hit over 30 home runs (nine accomplished this last year as well). Which means, in theory, you could be the ninth person in your league, or even the last, to draft a first basemen, and you’ll still be good for a 30-100 stat line. Not too shabby.

Colorado Rockies catcher Miguel Olivo is struck in the head with a bat by St. Louis Cardinals Albert Pujols in the first inning in St. Louis on October 1, 2010. Olivo left the game and went to a local hospital to be checked. UPI/Bill Greenblatt

Big Dog goes ‘Arf’

And to think, that doesn’t include guys who hit 25 home runs or more (add another six). Underneath that group are another dozen hitters capable of blasting 25 dingers, provided you’re flexible in the batting average and strikeout department. First base is deep, kids, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your due diligence on the position. First, let’s discuss the wounded birds looking to reclaim their 2009 glory.

Kendry Morales, Angels
Yes! I just hit a Grand Slam and won the game for my tea-OW! What the hell just popped in my foot? Even stranger, this bitten-by-home-plate thing happened to two different guys last year. Morales was a beast in 2009, hitting 34 dingers and knocking in 108 runs (He even stole three bases, though his success rate was a dismal 30%), and he’s reasonably well protected with Vernon Wells, Torii Hunter and the ageless Bobby Abreu hitting around him. A safe estimate would be a 5% drop from his 2009 numbers, but he certainly has the potential to do better than that.

Justin Morneau, Twins
We love what a pure hitter Morneau is, but this concussion business is spooky. Football players come back from one after a week or two, while Morneau has been sidelined since July, which makes us wonder: what exactly was he seeing, and are those images still dancing around the periphery? The Twins are smart to be cautious with one of their most prized hitters, but we’re now eight months removed from the injury, and the Twins are still treating him like the boy in the plastic bubble. That’s troubling to put it lightly. His draft value obviously takes a hit – a third rounder last year, he’s a projected late sixth rounder this year – but that also makes him one hell of a steal, if he’s healthy.

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11 MLB Players and Personnel We Would Not Want to Be in 2011

Ah, the week where pitchers and catchers report to camp. It’s scheduled around Valentine’s Day for a reason, you know. It’s the time of year where hope springs eternal and love conquers all, and even if your favorite team doesn’t have a prayer of making the playoffs, it’s still all right to believe that they might make the playoffs. Faith, even blind faith, is a powerful thing, and it is never stronger for a baseball fan than it is right now.

For the people who actually play and manage the game of baseball, however, it is a much, much different story. Some have contract issues to deal with; others have to try and deliver the same numbers they racked up the previous year even when the lineup around them is depleted. Managers have to talk to reporters about taking baby steps with young players, while telling their shrink that they just can’t bear the thought of losing another 95 games. General managers have to find a way to fill that hole, and they all have a hole. Of the hundreds of players, managers, and baseball personnel currently working in the majors today, though, these are the ones we pity the most. (Thanks to the good people at Baseball Reference for their meticulous, endless stream of statistics and bread sticks.)

Vernon Wells

His contract (seven years, $126 million) was considered to be one of the most untradeable contracts in baseball, and his sub par performance after inking said contract only made it seem like an even bigger albatross. (Sports writers like using the word ‘albatross.’ It makes them look well read.) Granted, he broke his wrist in 2008, and dealt with the lingering effects of it in 2009, but no one remembers that; they just remember the numbers, and Wells was once again confirming his reputation as the “Star Trek” movie franchise of baseball players. Last year, wrist fully healed after surgery, Wells had a nice bounce-back year (he ranked 16th among outfielders in one of our points-based fantasy leagues), so you can see why The The Angels Angels of Anaheim, after missing out on Adrian Beltre and Carl Crawford, would view Wells as a worthwhile gamble.

Having said that, Wells is positively boned if he turns in a season less than, or even equal to, his 2010 numbers. Anaheim is taking on nearly all of the money remaining on his contract (a whopping $86 million), and given that the Angels traded Juan Rivera and Mike Napoli in order to get him, Wells will be expected to perform at astronomical levels for the remainder of the contract. Good thing he has his stellar defense to fall back on during the rough patches.

Michael Young

Poor bastard. When the Rangers asked Michael Young to move from second base to shortstop to make room for Alfonso Soriano (who’s now a left fielder, by the way), Young did so. When the Rangers asked Young to move from shortstop – where he had just won his first Gold Glove – to third base in order to make room for Elvis Andrus, Young did so, though a bit more reluctantly than he was the first time. Now the Rangers have signed Adrian Beltre, and they’re asking Young not to play at all; just grab a bat every couple of innings. This is not in Young’s DNA, and Young, understandably, has requested a trade. The Rangers, however, are having a hard time finding a suitor for Young, thanks to his backloaded contract (three years, $48 million), which will make for one awkward clubhouse in a few days.

It’s hard not to feel bad for the guy. He merely signed the contract that the Rangers offered him, and his batting numbers have remained relatively consistent (save for his nine home runs in 2007, though he did knock in 94 runs and steal 13 bases that year). The Rangers are trying to grant his trade wish – they’ve reached out to Colorado and Florida – but everyone in baseball knows the Rangers are stuck, and they’re telling the Rangers they’ll take Young if the Rangers eat the vast majority of his contract. As it stands, it looks as though Young will be a DH and part-time first baseman. As selfless as he’s been in terms of doing what was best for the team, it has to sting that this is how he’s rewarded for his selflessness.


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Steroid users best liars ever, say writers assigned to cover them

As a diehard baseball fan, the steroids scandal just depresses me. Once it started to fall apart, it was pretty obvious which players would eventually be outed as users (the monster sluggers), along with a few surprises (Brian Roberts? Andy Pettite?). And while I will stress to my kids that they shouldn’t take steroids, I will not wag my finger at any of the players who did; who’s to say what I would do if I were in their position, and stood to make tens of millions by using a little juice, especially when there were no repercussions for getting caught? It’s a complicated issue that, by and large, is painted as a simple black-and-white question by many sports writers today.

And that is the part that bothers me. These same people covered the players while all of this was going on, and I can barely stomach their sanctimonious hindsight when flaying their latest target. With each new development on the subject, we are told that:

1. Lots and lots of players took steroids
2. No one else, not the trainers, coaches, managers, anyone in the commissioner’s office and certainly not the writers and reporters, had any idea these players were taking steroids

The first part is obviously true. The second part, however, I find highly unlikely.

Let’s break this down, shall we? In order for both to be true, it means that the players would all have to individually seek out dealers, who by the nature of their business are not the most upstanding citizens, without drawing any attention to themselves. Ever. That’s giving the players and dealers an awful lot of credit, don’t you think? One of them would have slipped up, and in a moment of desperation met his dealer at the team hotel during a slump. It’s just far too big a secret for so many people to keep. The odds of no one else in baseball stumbling upon it, even accidentally…well, there’s no point in calculating the odds, because it didn’t happen.

mac a rod

No one in baseball knew that these men took steroids. Uh, sure.

But this doesn’t just require all of the players and dealers to have the stealth of a ninja – it also requires the player personnel and writers to be blissfully unaware of what is happening around them, to a point that approaches obliviousness. And these people aren’t oblivious. That must therefore make them liars, yes? Well, it would be irresponsible of me to say, since I have no proof that anything I’m saying here is true, but let’s just say that each group of personnel involved here has their own reasons for keeping their mouths shut. Here is how it looks from my ‘Joe Sixpack’ perspective.

The players: Those inflated statistics raised the value of contracts across the board. Even the ones who didn’t take steroids benefited from those who did, the whole ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ thing. The primary reason the players are playing dumb, though, is because nobody likes a tattletale. If a current player dished on teammates both past and present, he would never stop getting his ass kicked. It’s like the mafia: honor the omerta, or pay the price.

Managers/coaches/trainers: I had an RA in college who summed up his supervisory role like this: “If I don’t see it, hear it, or smell it, I don’t care about it.” Managers and coaches are in a similar position. They need plausible deniability in the event that shit meets fan, but until that day arrives, what they really need is to win. If they don’t win, they get fired. That kind of motivation will lead a person to overlook a lot of things. And remember: the managers and coaches are all former players. Omerta.

Reporters: Two words: career suicide. If anyone who covers baseball were to break a story about steroid use, they’d be banned from every clubhouse in the country. Nope, that story will have to wait for an investigative journalist with no agenda and nothing to lose. Like, say, Mark Fainaru-Wada and Lance Williams, who nearly went to jail over the content of their BALCO exposé “Game of Shadows.”

Let us not forget, baseball was dying when Mark McGwire and Sammy Sosa went on their home run tear in 1998. Those two men are widely credited (and rightly so) with saving the game. Whether or not they achieved their results through illicit means, they put butts in seats, simple as that. The sudden spikes in home run numbers had to have raised an eyebrow or two at mission control, but I think it’s safe to say that the game’s salvation was a far greater priority at the time than its sanctity. Either way, that’s a hell of a choice to make, and in fairness to all concerned, I probably would have done the same thing. I mean, which would you rather be known for, being a participant in the Steroids Era, or the man who killed baseball?

And that’s the bottom line here. I completely understand why all of these people are denying any knowledge of the rampant steroid use that took place on their watch, and I don’t expect otherwise from them. But please, stop trying to convince us proles that the only people who knew about players using steroids were the players themselves. It’s insulting.

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