When in doubt, go for the healthy young guy

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If you’re a fantasy baseball or football owner and you don’t read Rotoworld every day (or, in my case, several times a day), you’re not only missing out, but you may very well be costing yourself a chance at a league title. As far as free and comprehensive fantasy advice goes, nobody does it better than Rotoworld. Their player updates pull from all sorts of local and national sources and are updated throughout the day, and their columnists offer up plenty of great insight, both during the season and leading up to draft day. They even have their own draft guide, although you’ve got to pay $15 for that.

Howard Megdal (who, as far as I can tell, is new to the Rotoworld staff this season) just posted a great article about the value of youth and health on draft day:

So when I draft, I want as much predictability as possible. Therefore, my two touchstones are getting as many players in their age peak (roughly 25-30), with an added focus on injury history. Such a strategy provides no guarantees—no strategy does—but puts me in the best position to consolidate my gains. And as a bonus—a healthy player of peak age, more likely than not, is going to be a player who has that surprise season you were hoping for from the rookie, anyway.

I’m always amazed by how many owners don’t pay attention to age or injury history during their drafts, especially in the early rounds. Every year, someone drafts a guy like AJ Burnett too early, and every year Burnett goes down with some kind of injury. Go ahead and take Lance Berkman in the second round — I’ll gladly wait another round or two and snag the younger Adrian Gonzalez or Prince Fielder. Upside, upside, upside.

Megdal goes on to target some of the likely first-rounders that he’s avoiding this year:

Ian Kinsler is another top-12 player with red flags of the white bandage variety. For the third straight season, he showed that when healthy, he is an offensive force at a position, second base, with very few of them. But he played in just 121 games, this time due to a sports hernia, and his season-high through three seasons is 130. No reason he can’t help a fantasy team—but let someone else draft his injury history first.

Also consider dropping Jimmy Rollins, who played in 137 games last season and already has back issues in spring training, and Carl Crawford, who was limited to 109 games with a finger injury last year. Crawford in particular appears to be healthy this spring—but grab the guy who just put up 150-160 games in 2008. An extra 10-15 games out of your best player could be the difference in some leagues.

Instead of Kinsler, who averaged fewer than 124 games per season from 2006-2008, how about Brandon Phillips, who has averaged around 150 games per season? Phillips is 27, suggesting that his best year may come in 2009.

I’m pretty high on both Kinsler and Phillips, as I noted in my second base preview, but while Kinsler is younger (by one year) and may arguably have a little more upside, Phillips has the much healthier track record and can be snagged a little later than Kinsler, which likely makes him the better value of the two. When you consider the premium you’ll need to pay for Kinsler (a late first or early second rounder), Phillips becomes that much more intriguing.

Megdal wisely suggests not becoming a slave to this (or any) draft strategy, because remaining too loyal to a plan could close you out of any mid- to late-round bargains that may fall into your lap. But when it comes to debating the merits of Carlos Delgado vs. Adrian Gonzalez, AJ Burnett vs. Edinson Volquez, or Carlos Lee vs. Nick Markakis, you’d be wise to go with the younger, healthier guy.

Follow the Scores Report editors on Twitter @clevelandteams and @bullzeyedotcom.

2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: First Basemen

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

If you do a detailed search for rankings of first basemen for your 2009 fantasy league, the only consistent thing you’ll see is: 1. Albert Pujols, STL.

After King Albert, first basemen ranked 2 through 7 is a toss up. Some fantasy pundits believe Detroit’s Miguel Cabrera is the next best 1B after Pujols, while others still feel that Philadelphia’s Ryan Howard deserves the No. 2 spot. One of the Yankees’ big offseasons signings, Mark Teixeira, is also getting some love behind Pujols, while Milwaukee’s Prince Fielder, Minnesota’s Justin Morneau and San Diego’s Adrian Gonzalez are floating anywhere from No. 4 to No. 7.

What’s the deal? After Pujols, how do you value the first basemen that fall 2 through 7? By home run totals? By age? In the case of Fielder, by the size of their waistbands? First and foremost, you can’t go wrong with any of the first basemen in the top 7, if not the top 10. They’ll all give you good to great home run and RBI totals and if you’re lucky, a couple will even hit .300 and produce 100 runs.

Read the rest after the jump...

Top 10 active MLB games without a World Series appearance

As we try to turn away from steroid implications and indictments and all of the black clouds surrounding Major League Baseball, we can’t forget that there are games to be played. Yes, the 2009 season is almost upon us. And with Ken Griffey Jr. signing with the Seattle Mariners this past week, where his great career began, it’s worth noting the Top 10 in active players who are not only ring-less, but have never appeared in a World Series game. (Note that we only counted those who are still active or at least played through the 2008 season.)

1. Ken Griffey Jr. (2521 games, 20 seasons)—He’s played for some great Mariners teams, but his Reds’ clubs the last decade or so were mostly awful. Junior had a shot with the White Sox last season after being traded, and didn’t make it. Can he play long enough for Seattle to become competitive again?

2. Frank Thomas (2322, 19)—Really, the Big Hurt has never sniffed a World Series? Well yeah, he was with the White Sox for 16 years and the team won it all in 2005, his last season with the team. But that October, Thomas was injured and left off the postseason roster, and then signed with Oakland in 2006.

3. Alex Rodriguez (2042, 15)—Does anyone else think it’s not coincidental that A-Rod has never reached the Fall Classic? Dude is a world-beater in the regular season but never seems to match or exceed his capability in the postseason.

4. Carlos Delgado (2009, 16)—Delgado began his career in Toronto right after the Jays won two World Series titles, and while he’s been close with the Mets a few times, he’s still looking for that “brass” ring.

5. Ray Durham (1975, 14)—Ray Durham has been a steady player, but all those years with the Giants (after they were NL champs in 2002) didn’t help his chances to reach the big stage. A late-season trade to Milwaukee in 2008 got him close, but the Brewers lost to Philly in the NLDS.

6. Jason Kendall (1833, 13)—Nine seasons in Pittsburgh says all that there needs to be said.

7. Bobby Abreu (1799, 13)—Abreu left Philly, and the Phillies won two division titles and a World Series. He put up decent numbers with the Yanks, but being A-Rod’s teammate didn’t help matters any (see above).

8. Mark Grudzielanek (1772, 14)—Grudzielanek began his career in Canadian baseball purgatory (Montreal) and has played the last three seasons in American baseball purgatory (Kansas City).

9. Vladimir Guerrero (1750, 13)—This dude has absolutely mashed his entire career, but playing eight years in Montreal ensured a late start in postseason experience. He signed with the Angels two years after they won it all, and is on a very talented team that always seems to underachieve in the playoffs.

10. Miguel Tejada (1713, 12)—Tejada won an MVP award in Oakland and has put up some monster numbers. His link to steroid use, along with A-Rod’s, has not exactly put him in a good light, but it’s still a bit surprising that he’s never made it to the big dance.

Source: Baseball Reference

Top 10 Active MLB Windmills

Many power hitters in baseball also have a penchant for swinging and missing. While batters have evolved over the years into more complete players, and Dave Kingman types aren’t the norm anymore, there are quite a few that we can classify as “windmills.” Here is a list of the Top 10 active players in strikeouts in baseball today.

1. Jim Thome, Chicago White Sox (2155)—Even though Mr. High Socks has a career batting average of .280, his 533 home runs are tempered by the air created when he swings and misses. Thome has struck out 2155 times in his 17-plus seasons, or roughly 30 % of his at-bats. Yikes.

2. Carlos Delgado, New York Mets (1701)—Sitting comfortably behind Thome is Mets’ first baseman Carlos Delgado, who is a cool 454 strikeouts behind Jimmy. Delgado has clubbed 457 home runs, but he has now struck out 100 or more times for the thirteenth straight season.

3. Ken Griffey Jr, Chicago White Sox (1669)—Around the time Griffey was tearing up the American League in the late ‘90’s with 209 home runs over four seasons, he also tallied 454 strikeouts. And with 1669 career windmills, Griffey strikes out about as often as he smiles.

4. Jim Edmonds, Chicago Cubs (1656)—Edmonds has quietly amassed 378 career homers, and has also compiled 1656 career strikeouts. But he’s currently in one of the two places (other than Colorado) where his power more than makes up for his K’s.

5. Manny Ramirez, Los Angeles Dodgers (1643)—Will someone tell me how a career .313 hitter averages 102 strikeouts per season? Wait, let me guess — Manny being Manny?

6. Alex Rodriguez, New York Yankees (1614)–$22 million for a guy that fans 107 times per season and doesn’t produce in the postseason? Am I missing something?

7. Mike Cameron, Milwaukee Brewers (1605)—Mike Cameron is a six-tool player—speed, average, power, glove, arm, and a penchant for missing the ball with his bat. That’s a very odd combination.

8. Jeff Kent, Los Angeles Dodgers (1515)—Ripping on Vin Scully? In Los Angeles, that’s like the priest ripping on the pope. Yeah, Jeff….you are 40, and even though Manny Ramirez now hits behind you, you still have almost as many career K’s on the scorecard as he does.

9. Andruw Jones, Los Angeles Dodgers (1468)—Seriously, now…..three of the current top ten windmills play for the L.A. Dodgers. No wonder this team can’t seem to catch the Diamondbacks.

10. Frank Thomas, Oakland Athletics (1394)—Mr. Thomas has 521 career homers, and though he’s only struck out more than 100 times three times in his career, he has landed here mainly because of his longevity (currently in his 19th season).

Source: Baseball Reference

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