2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Relief Pitchers

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There are two general schools of thought when it comes to selecting relief pitchers. Some owners zero in on a stud and are willing to select one in the first couple rounds, while others don’t mind cruising the wavier wire on a regular basis during the season after they waited to address the position late in their draft.

Neither approach is bad, although each has its drawbacks. K-Rod racked up 62 saves last season, but switching clubs and leagues this year leads to some uncertainty, plus outside of saves, his ERA and WHIP numbers have been on the decline for years. If you’re the type that burns a high draft pick on a top reliever and a guy like K-Rod fizzles, you obviously would have cost yourself an opportunity to select a position player that could have given you great value at that spot.

Conversely, if you wait until the later rounds of your draft to address your stopper(s), then you run the risk of playing Russian Roulette with the position throughout the regular season, possibly costing you wins/points in not only saves, but strikeouts, ERA and WHIP as well.

If we could offer some advice, we recommend finding a happy medium between those that make finding a reliever one of their top priorities, and those who avoid it like the dentist. Find that next wave of relievers after names like Joe Nathan, Jonathan Papelbon and Mariano Rivera come off the board. Chances are you’ll get a nice combination of saves, strikeouts, ERA and WHIP without burning a high draft pick on one of the studs.


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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Starting Pitchers

Admit it, you passed on Tim Lincecum last year. You took one look at his 2007 record (7-5), his ball boy-type frame (he only stands 5’11” and is 170-pounds soaking wet) and the fact that he played on a team with one of the worst offenses in baseball and you said, “no thanks.”

But there was one owner (the smart one) in your league that bought into the hype, took a shot and reaped the benefits of Lincecum earning the NL Cy Young Award while going 18-5 with a major league-leading 265 strikeouts and 2.62 ERA.

Don’t feel bad; you weren’t the only fantasy owner last year that just couldn’t pull the trigger on Lincecum. Truth be told, he was a bit of a risk last season given his inexperience and the fact that the Giants weren’t expected to give him much run support. And assuming you’ve played a fair share of fantasy baseball, you’ve probably been burned once or twice in the past by taking a risk on that perfect young sleeper that everyone is gaga for in spring training, yet fizzles once the season starts.


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2009 Fantasy Baseball Preview: Outfielders

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The great thing about addressing your outfielder positions on draft day is that there are so many to choose from that chances are if you don’t like one facet about a certain player (i.e. age, inexperience, he plays for the Red Sox and you’re a Yankees fan, etc.), you can move on to one of the many other choices available.

Conversely, with so many players to choose from, you’re liable to stick your head in an oven in order to avoid having to decide between which outfielders will explode and which will wind up on your league’s wavier wire after making you suffer for the first couple months of the season.

The nice thing about having so many choices for outfielders is that you can draft certain players to fill certain needs. As your roster starts to take shape on draft day, if you desire more power, then there are plenty of outfielders that can address that specific need. If your team is lacking speed, there are outfielders that you can target to rack up stolen bases. And if you were able to draft for both speed and power in previous rounds, then adding a couple outfielders that can hit for average will only help you in the long run.

That said, if you’re smart, you’ll pinpoint the outfielders that can do it all. Sure, they might not excel in any one area, but over the course of the season if you can land a guy that can spread out his production in home runs, RBIs, runs and average, it will do wonders for your team in the end. After all, balance is key in fantasy baseball and after you land your studs early on, you’re going to need to complete your roster with players that can produce in all areas.


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Alex Rodiguez has torpedoed my fantasy draft strategy

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

The collective groan you heard when Alex Rodriguez announced that he would have “hybrid” surgery to repair his injured hip was not solely the work of the Yankee faithful. The ramifications in fantasy circles are staggering, especially if you, like me, happen to have the fifth pick in your draft.

Just a few days ago, I thought I had my draft strategy all figured out. The first round would simply be a matter of which of the Big Five (Hanley, Reyes, Pujols, A-Rod, Wright) fell to me. The mock drafts I conducted a few weeks ago indicated that Wright would be my guy, which was fine with me. The post-surgery view from the five-hole, however, is bleak. The Big Five is now the Big Four – Rodriguez is currently sitting at #49 in my draft room – and whichever player I take with my first pick now feels like a reach. However, after doing some stat sorting, I found my guy. He’s a former MVP with pop and speed. So why don’t I want to take him?


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Bargain hunting for starting pitchers

Josh Beckett

All 2009 Fantasy Articles | 2009 Position Rankings

As someone who loyally subscribes to the “wait for pitching” strategy on draft day, I’m always on the lookout for value starters. Experience has shown me that there are plenty of nice starting pitching bargains in the middle and late rounds every year, and if I’m diligent enough, I can also add pitching via the waiver wire during the season. All of which allows me to load up on as much hitting as I can in the early rounds, understanding that the more offensive firepower I have on my roster, the easier it will be to trade for a top-line starter should I find myself in need of reinforcements for the stretch run.

Of course, that doesn’t mean I ignore pitching on draft day. Far from it. Those SP bargains I mentioned above are available each year, if you know what to look for. Sure, it’s nice to have a reliable horse like Johan Santana or Brandon Webb anchoring your pitching staff, but the cost of adding someone like that is usually a little too steep for my tastes. So instead, my goal is to take five to seven solid starters who can deliver quality ratios while racking up strikeouts. Ideally, I also look for guys who pitch for successful teams, hoping that will translate to wins for my team.

The guys I target tend to fall into one of four categories: Young Guns, Rebound Vets, Undervalued Arms and Late Steals. As I’ve admitted in previous posts, I’m a sucker for upside but that doesn’t mean I’ll fall for any promising youngster with a lively arm. I’m also a sucker for a good revival story so I’m always looking for veterans with a solid track record whose stock has fallen because of an off year, while guys in the undervalued category tend to fly under the radar despite their consistent production. Finally, I try to wrap up every draft with one or two late-round picks that could pay off big in the long run.

Below, I’ve listed several pitchers I’ve got my eye on in each of these four categories, using the Average Draft Position (ADP) from ESPN’s draft kit as a guide. I’ve included the ADP as well as the SP rank (SP13, for example) for each of the 16 starters below. These aren’t, of course, the only guys who would qualify in these categories, just the ones at the top of my list. If you’re thinking about stockpiling bats early in your draft, maybe they should be at the top of your list too.

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