It Is Like Waiting For Christmas Morning For Cardinals Fans

Except this time there might actually be coal in your stocking:

http://www.albertcountdown.com/

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Irrefutable Fantasy Rankings – Third Base

The hot corner isn’t exactly a hot position this year. Things get uncertain pretty quick once you get past the studs. When Alex Rodriguez is coming into the year with question marks you know that there aren’t many sure things in 2011:

The Been

1. Evan Longoria – Some people were actually disappointed with the 24 year old putting up a .294/96/22/104/15 line last year.   Should be more focused this year now that he will no longer have to deal with Tony Parker jokes:  .285/90/30/105/12

2. David Wright – You may not yet be confident with the home runs, but at least you’ll know he always gives great helmet.  2009 looks to be more the exception than the rule.  Draft with confidence:  .285/85/27/100/18

3. Alex Rodriguez – I really wanted to go with Zimmerman here, but didn’t quite have as much confidence in him as A-Rod has in himself. The trends are worrisome, but in his worst years he is better than most:  .280/75/34/110/8

4. Ryan Zimmerman – Losing Dunn doesn’t help, but his new lineup production won’t be Werthless (pun!).  If he can stay on the field, you’re looking at the potential for 30 hr and a .300+ average:  .290/85/32/100/2

5. Kevin Youkilis – If you know anything about fantasy baseball, you will be drafting Youk as a 3b.  If you’re an ESPN fantasy expert, then you will be deciding between him and Teixeira to be your 1b. Depending on your league’s settings, you’ll have to wait a little bit to plug him into the hot corner, but the beard of truth is worth waiting for:  .295/95/28/110/4

6. Adrian Beltre – We all know about the contract year peaks, but if you throw out 2009 (the guy had a ruptured testicle for chrissake) Beltre averaged 24 hr and 88 rbi per year in his time at cavernous Safeco Field.  The average won’t repeat, but the counting stats should be pretty all right:  .270/80/27/95/10

7. Jose Bautista – Yes, 2010 seemed to come a bit out of nowhere (career hr totals:  16, 15, 15, 13, 54!), but many people tend to think it wasn’t totally a fluke.  3b is a weak position, so he’d be worth the risk at the right price:  .260/85/30/90/5

8. Aramis Ramirez – Once one of the most reliable 3b’s in the game, A-Ram is starting to see a bit of a slide.  But he did have a strong 2nd half last year and will be playing for a contract this year.  Could be a good time to buy low:  .285/80/28/90/2

9. Mark Reynolds – We all know the Stew doesn’t like average risk.  Well, Mark Reynolds is way above average risk.  If he could just hit .250 he’d be a lot higher up this list.  But who am I to talk. . . I write baseball blogs as a hobby.  His average won’t be pretty this year, but should be comfortably above the Mendoza line:  .235/85/35/95/10

10. Pedro Alvarez – Probably the last year Pedro is this far down the list.  Only 24 and has a ton of power.  If his defense doesn’t force a move to 1st, he’ll be one of the top 3b for a long time:  .265/80/28/90/2

11. Casey McGehee – The guy no one wants to admit is any good.  Seriously, I tried to trade him for months last year.  Nothing flashy, but should provide good, cheap production at a weak position:  .280/75/22/90/1

12. Pablo Sandoval – Remember this guy?  He was supposed to be a top 3b last year.  Just goes to show you that there’s a very fine line between Kung-Fu Panda and Jabba the Hut.  Of course he is taking this off season very seriously and is probably in the best shape of his life.  On a serious note, I expect a bit of a bounce back:  .290/80/20/85/4

The Stew

1. Evan Longoria – Alex Rodriguez is dating Cameron Diaz. If that is not a sign he is no longer the top fantasy option at the hot corner, I do not know what is. While A-Rod is crushing washed up crease Longoria has himself in the top-6 of most draft boards. Draft expecting a slight uptick in power+steals: .285/95/35/110

2. David Wright – Wright spent some time complaining about Citi Field. Looks like he adjusted accordingly. Not too many third basemen can run like Wright and he’s a true 5-category star. Drafters may still be wary of that 2009 but don’t be. He may not be 30/30, but he is a lock for 20/20: .305/100/25/95/20

3. Ryan Zimmerman – I will put Invader Zim here since The Been didn’t have the heart. He isn’t a burner but knows how to score runs. Will A-Rod continue to steal 15+? If he does, this may be the last year he does so: .300/100/25/100/4

4. Alex Rodriguez – He scored 74 runs last year and knocked in 125. That is a pretty big disparity. He is inching closer to Carlos Lee territory. Man, he is still pretty darn good but…Madonna? Cameron Diaz? Looks like A-Rod isn’t the only one out of his prime: .275/75/30/110/8

5. Kevin Youkilis – Where is Youkilis going to hit in the Red Sox lineup? Let’s look at it this way; worst case scenario is he hits 6th behind a mixture of Ellsbury, Pedroia, Crawford, Gonzalez and Ortiz. If he is sandwiched somewhere inbetween there, watch out: .290/90/25/100/0

6. Aramis Ramirez – That is about as bad as he can get people. You saw it already and there is only one way to go from here: Up. Derrek Lee is gone so Ramirez will be slotted to hit 3rd in a Cubs lineup that isn’t dynamite but far from punchless. I don’t care who you are. If you are hitting third you will put up stats: .285/85/33/95/0

7. Casey McGehee – He will be playing in a lineup with a Prince Fielder who is playing for money. That is gotta help your counting statistics. Plus, Ryan Braun ain’t no slouch neither. He’s not sexy, but I bet he does better than Adrian Beltre: .280/85/23/85/2

8. Pedro Alvarez – Who is into upside? Don’t look now but the Pirates might actually be fielding a team this year. Well, at least on offense. Alvarez is going to hit bombs, that is for certain. And it isn’t like they’re going to bench him if he doesn’t hit. I mean, the Pirates stuck with Andy Laroche for almost an entire year. By all accounts, Alvarez won’t be a Mark Reynolds drain on your average: .260/80/30/80/1

9. Adrian Beltre – Is he playing for a contract? No? Well, then I guess I’m not paying. The move to Arlington can’t hurt but it’s not like Fenway is a bad place for righties: .275/80/20/80/3

10. Jose Bautista – Sigh…gotta put him somewhere: .265/75/28/80/2

11. Pablo Sandoval – I’m a believer. In the “I believe he will hit over .300 and push 20HR” way. I’m looking at a Billy Butler-like output from Sandoval. He needs to take some eating tips from Lincecum and Zito. If those two can keep off the late night munchies then anyone can: .310/75/20/80/0

12. Mark Reynolds – Ugghhhh. I hate Mark Reynolds and will never draft him. I’m just such a sucker for batting average. But hey, he is going to hit bombs and steal a few. Plus, Baltimore’s offense is actually shaping up to be pretty respectable: .220/75/35/80/10

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Keep Up With Current Events

All the news that is fit to print. Hat tip to JMac:

http://www.didthecavswinlastnight.com/

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The 1963 NL MVP – A Reason To Forever Disregard MLB Awards

Here’s the line they’re hyping on the Yahoo! Fantasy Sports front page:

Jason Heyward may be the Braves’ greatest outfield talent since Hank Aaron, but should fantasy owners buy the hype?

Now THAT’S a bold statement. <—See what I did there? And from that I go through the logical progression of things by instantly navigating to Hank Aaron’s baseball-reference page. Aaron’s career statistics, as well as Albert Pujols’s, are something I could look at for hours. It’s just something to admire and there’s a semblance of feng shui to be found in those numbers. Pujols’s 2007 season, for example, gives me vertigo if I stare at it for too long. An uneasy feeling, at best.

Aaron’s stats are are as good as they are consistent. He twice led the league in runs, RBIs and HRs. The first year, 1957, he won the NL MVP. The second year, 1963, he finished third. Throw in the fact that he also led the league in slugging and OPS and you have yourselves a pretty solid offensive year. So there must have been two pretty amazing years from other players to drop Aaron down to third in the voting.

Let us dig a little deeper.

Sandy Koufax, the winner of the 1963 NL MVP, was probably a worthy recipient. Although he started a hefty amount of games (40) by today’s standards, Koufax was completely dominant. He went 25-5 with a 1.88 ERA, 0.875 WHIP and 306 Ks in 311 IP. Hard to argue against that.

But that’s not the problem. The issue is with Dick Groat coming in second in the 1963 MVP voting. Once you see Groat’s statistics side by side with Aaron’s you’ll witness how absurd this charade of MLB awards voting is:
PTS   WAR   ABs   R     H    HR    RBI  SB     BB      BA    OBP    SLUG
Dick Groat    STL    190.0   6.4    631   85   201     6      73       3      56    .319    .377      .450
Hank Aaron MLN   135.0  10.0   631  121  201   44    130     31     78     .319    .391     .586

In what world does Hank Aaron finish third behind Dick Groat? This happened back in 1963, way before my time. Maybe something went haywire in ’63 and Aaron fell out of favor with the baseball writers. Maybe he gave Dick Schaap the cold shoulder after a loss.

I know it is silly to throw such a fit about two guys who didn’t even win the award in the first place. Still, the discrepancies between the two players are far too vast to ignore. MLB awards voting committee; I quit.

Maybe it was because Groat is white and Aaron is…actually named Henry.

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What Do We Do With Desmond Jennings?

"Am I really about to lose ABs to Johnny Damon?"

Perhaps Rays GM Andrew Friedman (Jewish much?) is trying to save me from wasting a roster spot in 2011. With the signing of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez last week, it appears that the departure of Carl Crawford might not free up playing time for Desmond Jennings as many of us hoped.

It’s a safe bet that Manny Ramirez, when he actually sees the field, will spend much of of his time as the DH. Any games he sees in LF will most likely be against left-handed starters during interleague play. But Johnny Damon is still capable of running down a fly ball in left. Throw in newly acquired Brandon Guyer and Sam Fuld, as well as Matt Joyce, and the outfield gets a bit more crowded.

Fuld is hardly an everyday player at the MLB level and Guyer might spend most of 2011 in the minors. Neither is hardly the prospect of Jennings’s caliber. Joyce is looking at a DH platoon split with Manny but is more than capable in the OF to steal ABs away from Jennings when a right handed starter is on the mound.

Desmond Jennings scuffled a bit in AAA last season. He didn’t light up the world during his September call-up either, though he only received 24 PA. Not much to base a hypothesis. Much of his minor league struggles in 2010 were attributed to an early wrist injury that required a splint. Wrist injuries usually effect power production so that may explain Jennings’s regression in HRs.

Is Jennings the most talented option for the Rays in left field? Absolutely. But with the signing of Johnny Damon and Manny Ramirez it appears the Rays aren’t completely sure about giving Jennings the starting gig right away. Friedman and the rest of the Rays’ front office might be a bit wary of how Jennings played last season and would prefer to ease him into the lineup using Johnny Damon as training wheels.

Jennings has a solid K/BB ratio and one would think he could sustain a good average in 2011 against MLB caliber pitching. I’d say his home run ceiling in 2011 is 10 bombs. His career high in the minors is 11 and he only hit three last year.

The real question here is whether or not he will see the field enough to steal 40+ bases. Speaking as a guy who has to make a keeper decision on Jennings, I’d love to see him win the starting job out of spring training. If he has a poor spring he may even start the year in the minors (which blows). With enough stop gaps in LF the Rays can afford to keep him in AAA at least through April just to get him regular ABs.

Damon and the others are obviously not the future but they are the present. They could steal enough ABs away from Jennings to make him a non-factor in fantasy for 2011.

The ceiling for Jennings is probably enough to hold onto in 2011. If he plays up to potential his profile projects as Jacoby Ellsbury-esque. Only 15 rounds later.

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Irrefutable 2011 Fantasy Rankings – Second Base

Second base has a decent amount of depth this year, albeit risky depth. With players like Ian Kinsler, Rickie Weeks, Chase Utley and Howie Kendrick being drafted almost universally there is sure to be plenty of fantasy managers bemoaning their draft strategies when their starting second baseman goes down with an injury. To think that all those listed above will play 140+ games in 2011 is an optimistic proposition. That is a glass-completely-full approach to the game and you are probably too peppy of a person for me to be your friend. Here’s our rankings for the coming season. Projections are based on the player seeing the field in the majority of their games:

The Been

1.       Robinson Cano – It’s a changing of the guard at 2b and for those into math, Cano = (Utley + health + youth + avg)  – (steals  + hair).  Hitting in the middle of the Yankees lineup with that short porch in right, Cano has established lofty expectations:  .320/100/27/110/3

2.       Chase Utley – How the mighty have (barely) fallen.  Utley had some injury concerns last year and is on the wrong side of his peak.  But he can be had at good value and if he stays healthy all year shouldn’t disappoint:  .285/100/30/90/15

3.       Dustin Pedroia – The laser show was well on his way to having another solid season until injury cut it short.  Expect even better counting numbers now with Carl Crawford and Adrian Gonzalez aboard:  .295/120/18/80/20

4.       Dan Uggla –The only thing inconsistent about his game is batting average.  And while I don’t expect  .287 again, the Little Donkey should have no trouble pumping out 30 hr seasons for the Braves:  .265/90/30/100/5

5.       Ian Kinsler – Would be a top 20 player if he could kick the habit of visiting the DL.  He’s only once topped 140 games and went 30/30, so cross your fingers and have a good backup in place:  .275/85/24/80/20

6.       Brandon Phillips – Would it surprise you to find out that Phillips is only 29?  It’s clear his 30/30 season was an outlier, but he’s almost a sure bet for 20/20:  .275/80/20/75/20

7.       Rickie Weeks – So that’s why we’ve been torturing ourselves with Rickie Weeks for the last 5 years.  If health were a guarantee, he’d be higher up this list and Dr. Oz would be out of a job:  .270/90/22/75/12

8.       Aaron Hill – The million dollar question, will we get the 2009 or 2010 Hill?  To quote every baseball site on the internet, “probably somewhere in between.”  Gee, no kidding:  .280/80/28/80/2

9.       Brian Roberts – Could be a huge steal in the draft, but could miss most of the season with lingering injuries.  Showed he could still provide good numbers when he came back last year:  .280/85/10/65/30

10.   Kelly Johnson – Other than a disastrous 2009, Johnson has been a pretty valuable fantasy asset at second base.  Is he 26 hr good?  Probably not.  But he should provide pretty good pop and decent speed at a traditionally weak position:  .285/85/20/70/10

11.   Martin Prado – Nothing exciting about Prado. . . literally:  .300/90/15/65/5

12.   Ben Zobrist – Should still have 2nd base eligibility and has one more chance to prove 2009 wasn’t a fluke.  Provides 20/20 potential at a discounted price:  .260/85/16/75/20

The Stew

1)      Robinson Cano – You can’t spell Cano without can. That’s logic you can take to the bank. Cano is worth the 1st round investment even though second base actually has some decent depth. And remember; Cano can go-go, but Jimmy Carter is smarter: .325/100/25/110/1

2)      Chase Utley – As The Been pointed out above, if hair was a roto category Utley would force his way into the top half of the 1st round. He’s been injured but I wouldn’t consider him injury prone. Like my old college roommate’s Aussie shampoo bottle read: “Every day will be a good hair day”. Rumor has it Utley is a fan of Paul Hogan: .280/100/27/90/12

3)      Dustin Pedroia – First there’s this. Then there’s this. And finally this recent bit of awesome. That’s the kind of guy you can get behind in the 3rd round of drafts: .310/110/18/80/18

4)      Ian Kinsler – The inspiration for one of the best pun-related team names in my short fantasy baseball career (Kinsler’s List), Ian is the best hitting Jew since Shawn Green. If Rickie Weeks and Howie Kendrick can stay healthy for a year, why can’t Kinsler? Caveat emptor: .275/100/25/80/25

5)      Brandon Phillips – I hear he doesn’t like the Cardinals. That’s all I need to know. I can’t imagine Jason Larue will be drafting him this year: .275/90/20/80/20

6)      Dan Uggla – One time I made a joke at a draft using Uggla’s name as a pun. No one laughed. I’ll never have confidence in him. Plus, I hate batting average risks: .255/90/30/90/3

7)      Rickie Weeks – I’m hoping someone from my keeper league decides to hold on to Weeks. That way I don’t have to decide to draft him if he’s available. Classic case of risk/reward here folks. Enron or Microsoft? What stock are you buying here? I’ve seen him going as early as the 3rd round. Too rich for my blood: .270/110/25/75/15 (assuming he plays at least 140 games)

8)      Kelly Johnson – People go to Phoenix for fake boobs on trophy wives and home runs. Johnson delivers the latter. He probably would have produced like this if Bobby Cox would have shown a shred of confidence in Johnson when he was in Atlanta. I think 2010 was for reals: .280/90/25/80/10

9)      Martin Prado – I like a fair level of certainty with my players. Prado, unlike his overpriced namesake in the fashion medium, is quality at decent price. He’s affordable in drafts and will contribute in 4 of 5 roto categories: .310/95/15/60/5

10)   Aaron Hill – I’m with The Been on this one. If Hill falls in your drafts he could be a pretty big pickup. He has 30 homer potential and there aren’t many 2nd basemen that can say that. Especially not in Canadian: .280/90/25/90/2

11)   Ben Zobrist – Take a look at his minor league stats. The guy is not a power hitter. He is a good hitter though. However, he is Baptist. Although, his wife has a nice set of pipes on her. Do what you will, but don’t be expecting 27 hrs again: .290/80/12/80/20

12)   Gordon Beckham – The White Sox are going to score some runs this year. Beckham will probably hit in the 2-spot. He may have had a sophomore slump, but he’s not the first to ever struggle in his second year. He hit pretty well during the second half of 2010. He’s a Stew Sleeper Special: .290/80/15/80/15

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Angels’ GM Forgets To Change Office Calendar For Four Years, Trades For Vernon Wells

The Been Stew has a way of getting to the bottom of things. The recent Vernon Wells-Mike Napoli/Juan Rivera trade is no different. Wells, who experienced a slight resurgence last season, is still owed $86 million over the next 4 years. Coming from a Cubs fan who knows a thing or two about bad contracts (here and here), this trade is a head scratcher.

Why would the Anaheim Angels want this much money tied up in one player? Perhaps Angels’ GM Tony Reagins was feeling some outside pressure after striking out (nailed it) on other big free agents like Carl Crawford and Adrian Beltre. The Angels were obviously still looking for a bat and they apparently felt Wells was that bat.

But how did this trade really come to fruition? Was Reagins so desperate to make some noise that they somehow acquired the “Man With The Untradeable Contract“? Was he trying to upgrade the defense of an aging outfield? Is he a huge fan of The Road Warrior and Commando?

None of these hypotheses are correct. The real impetus for the swap is that Reagins had forgotten to switch over his Far Side Office Calendar since 2007. According to Reagins’s assistant, here’s how it all went down:

  • Reagins waltzes into office at 10:23AM. Attempts Cryptoquip but gives up shortly thereafter.
  • Notices calendar stating the date is Jan. 19th, 2007.
  • Pulls up baseballreference.com to see Vernon Wells’s 2006 stats. Disregards stats accumulated for years 2007-10 as projected statistics.
  • Tries to call up J.P. Ricciardi, gets Alex Anthopoulos instead.
  • Makes deal.
  • Asks Anthropoulos if he wants to catch I Now Pronounce You Chuck And Larry at the Cinemark.

When reached for comment concerning the trade, Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos had this to say:

You know, to be honest, I hung up on (Reagins) the first time he called. I thought he was just being a dick. Kind of like a “new GM” hazing thing. Like if I called Sabean wanting to trade for Zito or something. But he called me right back still asking about the availability of Vernon Wells. Reagins actually proposed (Mike) Napoli and (Juan) Rivera. I’m glad he did too because I was ready to give him Wells for two large pizzas and a Jamocha Shake.”

Reagins, seemingly still unaware of the current calendar year, seems surprisingly upbeat about the trade:

“With the addition of Vernon Wells, we now have an impact outfield. Bobby Abreu is coming off another 100 RBI season and Torii Hunter just had his first 30+ HR season. I guarantee it won’t be Torii’s last. Three speed/power guys still in their prime with no signs of declining skills? Look out AL West. Also, have you guys read that new Harry Potter book “The Deathly Hallows”? Man, you gotta get out there and buy it. Best one of the series so far.”

Here’s hoping that Reagins has one of these to help pay for that contract.

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Irrefutable 2011 Fantasy Rankings – 1st Base

Well we’re a couple weeks into the new year, meaning it’s already been a week since you quit your resolution and it’s finally ok to look at fantasy baseball rankings without feeling like a loser.  Being as though The Been Stew didn’t make its debut until the middle of last season, this will be our first dip into the rankings pool.  So why not start it off easy with fantasy’s deepest position (sink or swim!). Without further adieu:

The Been

1.       Albert Pujols: One of these times the machine will be a letdown and it’ll probably be the year you finally get the 1st pick.  Good news is it won’t be this year.  Expect the usual:  .320/110/40/120/12

2.       Miguel Cabrera: Albert Jr. is growing up.  Last year he ditched the beer goggles and this year he’ll be using protection (I’m looking at you Victor Martinez):  .315/110/40/125/2

3.       Joey Votto: He may be the only Canadian that hates bears, but like any true Canuck, he shows a strong affinity for the maple:  .320/100/34/110/10

4.       Adrian Gonzalez: Offseason shoulder surgery is a concern, but he’s supposed to be ready by spring training and has been a monster (not initially intended, but I’m sticking with it) away from Petco:  .290/105/40/120/0

5.       Ryan Howard: Despite missing a month with a sprained ankle, Howard still managed over 30 hr and 100 rbi.  The guy could hit a homer with a $5 foot long and should:  .270/90/40/120/2

6.       Mark Teixeira: Thanks to a .256 average, last year was his worst since he was a rookie.  But he still went 30/100 and has a sweet spot in the middle of the Yankee order, so fear not:  .285/100/34/110/2

7.       Prince Fielder: Odd numbered years are to obese vegetarians as full moons are to werewolves.  Expect a bounce back from last year’s disappointment:  .280/90/35/100/1

8.       Kendry Morales: Morales was well on his way to proving his 2009 wasn’t a fluke, until he met a fate sadder than Mike Scioscia’s tragic illness.  He may end up being one of the best values in the draft:  .288/85/30/100/1

9.       Adam Dunn: There’s something to be said for consistency and Dunn has provided four consecutive years of 40 hr followed by two years of 38.  Expect the homer friendly US Cellular to push him back into the 40’s:  .255/80/40/105/0

10.   Paul Konerko: I’m not all in on last year’s resurgence, but Pauly has been rewarding fantasy owners for a long time now (surprisingly at 364 career hr, he has a reasonable shot at 500):  .280/85/32/90/0

11.   Justin Morneau: I guess this all depends on his head, but when healthy, he’s an MVP candidate.  Could be a real steal this year or he could forget who he is.  Must be monitored in spring training:  .290/80/28/90/0

12.   Billy Butler: One of these days he’ll turn all those doubles into home runs. . . or singles if his butt gets any bigger.  As for now, there’s still hope:  .300/80/20/90/0

The Stew

1.       Albert Pujols – The boys over at Yahoo! are predicting a fall from the mountain top for Pujols. Albeit, only a fall to the No.2 overall spot behind Hanley Ramirez. I can get behind that logic based on position scarcity and I’ve always had a soft spot for SBs. But if Pujols isn’t the first 1B off the board then I think we’ve found the sucker at the draft table. The Cardinals’ lineup isn’t any more daunting than last year. I’d expect numbers similar to last year. 40+ HR w/ 110 runs and RBIs.

2.       Miguel Cabrera – A pretty good consolation prize if you’re drafting 3rd. You won’t get Pujols but Cabrera’s numbers won’t be too far off the pace. Pujols will probably edge Cabrera in SB and R. The batting average and HR/RBI totals could go either way. Drafting for consistency in the 1st round is a great luxury.  Expect a line of 100/37/125/3/.320

3.       Adrian Gonzalez – The real question we’re asking here is, “How big of a difference will Fenway be compared to PetCo?” In this guy’s opinion? A big difference. Gonzalez hit 20 of his 31 HRs last year away from PetCo. The year before that; 12 home, 28 away. I think it’s safe to say that PetCo has a negative effect on Gonzo’s power. With a big upgrade in ballpark and lineup, The Stew thinks that Gonzalez should be the 3rd first baseman off the board. I’d take the over on both 40HR and 120RBI. Cabrera is ranked ahead of Gonzalez based on level of risk but AGon could outperform Cabrera stats-wise. It is risk/reward and I don’t like any risk with my first round picks.

4.       Joey Votto – Can he do better than his 2010? Possible. I’d venture to guess his HR and SB totals take a little dip in 2011. Votto is probably closer to a 30 homer guy than a 40 homer guy. His 16 SBs definitely weren’t out of the blue, but I’d have to think the Reds will limit his running jussssssst a wee bit. They won’t want to risk losing Votto because he broke his thumb trying to beat a tag at second. Votto has the pedigree and is entering the magical “age 27” season. But last year was a career year and you can’t pay for last year’s stats.

5.       Mark Teixeira – Was last year’s .256 average a bump in the road or the beginning of a gradual statistical decline? Well, Big Tex turns 31 at the beginning of the 2011 season and I’d wager that he still has a lot left in the tank. Take away that .256 average and his counting stats were rock solid. Last year probably knocked Teixeira out of the 1st round, but he’ll be a steal for anyone who missed out on the top 4 on this list. 100/35/110/.280.

6.       Ryan Howard – Sometimes it is easy to forget that Howard is actually older than Albert Pujols. Howard is a power hitter with a long swing. Age catches up to players in that mold quicker than others. Is Howard done? I don’t think so. But his BB total has fallen each of the past 4 years. His 31 HRs in 2010 were his worst full season total by 14. I’d be drafting Howard expecting a slight bounce back in HRs along with a return to the .250 average range. Last year was bad considering where he was probably drafted but I’d be surprised if his HR, R and RBI totals don’t rebound from 2010. Don’t be expecting 140+ RBIs, though.

7.       Prince Fielder – Like The Been, I am predicting a bounce back year for Fielder. I am expecting a return to glory for different reasons, however. Two words: contract year. Judging by some of Fielder’s antics, I would have to think he is the kind of jerk that only gives it his all when there is money to be had. I think his stats last year were more of a product of bad/weird luck than a poor year. He hit 32 HR and had just 83 RBI to show for it. That doesn’t add up and the Brewers still have an above average lineup with Hart, Braun and McGehee. Look for a 90/40/110/.275 contribution.

8.       Justin Morneau – What is it with corner infielders from Minnesota? Hopefully Morneau didn’t spend all winter hanging out with Corey Koskie. Or Lenny Dykstra for that matter. The Twins have a pretty solid, balanced lineup when Morneau is playing. Sources say that he will be ready for spring training. We will know more once we near draft time but I’m a believer that he will be ready to mash once again. Of course, Morneau will miss the playoffs with another injury in 2011 but who really cares about the playoffs? I wouldn’t want to play baseball outdoors in St. Paul during October neither.  THE STEW JUNK BOND RISK/REWARD SPECIAL! 100/25/115/.285

9.       Adam Dunn – Dunn is no longer the BA drain that he used to be. He has quietly hit over .260 in 3 of the past 4 seasons. He’ll never be Ichiro, but at least he’s not Mark Reynolds anymore. The White Sox lineup is better than the Nationals but not enough to make a huge difference. I’d expect to see a few more runs and rbis for Dunn. Don’t assume a move to The Cell will raise his stats exponentially, though. I’ll take the over on 40 HRs but 85/110 R/RBI is probably the best you’ll get from a guy that strikes out regularly with runners on 3rd with less than 2 outs.

10.   Kendry MoralesMinor league track record suggests that Kendry is for real, at least concerning batting average. He’ll probably be right there in BA for first basemen. I think 35 HR is probably his plateau so don’t be expecting him to hit 40 bombs. The real concern is the Angels. They have skirted by the AL West with replacement parts for a few years now. Hunter and Abreu are one year older and their lack of a star may finally expose the smoke and mirrors offensive approach. I don’t doubt Morales as a hitter. I doubt those around him being able to continue their production at the MLB level. Unless they find another quality bat, I would predict a 90/30/90/.320 line for Kendry.

11.   Kevin Youkilis – Adrian Gonzalez isn’t the only one benefiting from his arrival to Boston. Youk is reportedly healthy and ready for the 2011 season. He won’t be playing 1B this year, but he’ll retain eligibility. The guy takes a lot of walks so his production is easy to predict. That’s a quality that I will pay for as a fantasy manager. Hitting in the middle of a stacked lineup should offer up plenty of RBI opportunities. I would bet good money that The Greek God of Walks reaches the 100 RBI mark. I place him above Butler because of he has already shown he can hit for solid power. Beard, beard on the wall. Who is the mashiest of them all? YOUUUUK! 90/27/105/.290

12.   Billy Butler – Well, he’s not Alex Gordon. That has to help a little bit, right? The guy is an absolute doubles machine. Although he took a step back in the power department in 2010, I think he’ll get to the 20 HR mark again this season. Thirty home runs might be a bit much to ask but 25 bombs are reachable. His counting stats will depend when/if Eric Hosmer and Mike Moustakas are called up and if they perform at a decent level. Unfortunately for Butler, the Royals opening day roster might be the worst in baseball this year. I’ll go with the Been on this one and say .300/80/20/90/0 is a safe bet.

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Pujols’ agent to Cardinals: We will not negotiate in-season. . .

or if your GM continues to dress like this:

"Forget about Albert's new deal. Let's talk about the deals going on at the GAP right now."

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Texas Rangers, Beltre Looking Forward To A Big 2016

Adrian Beltre signs a new contract with the Texas Rangers. Sources say deal is worth five mediorce seasons and one really good one.

Adrian Beltre turned his only year in Boston into a retirement plan rivaling even the best Roth IRA. Signing a deal worth $96 million over 6 years, Beltre seems to be set monetarily for the rest of his career. But this deal has to be disheartening for Rangers fans who almost tasted their franchise’s first World Series victory.

A deal such as this shows that the Texas Rangers aren’t confident in their abilities to contend for a league crown over the next five years. Unless the other players on the roster pick up the slack, the Rangers won’t be getting much production from Beltre until the 2016 season. That season being Beltre’s next contract year.*

*Due to contract terms Beltre’s last year can be voided if he doesn’t meet certain performance standards. Let’s assume his final year will be 2016, though.

For the sake of bad/ancient jokes, Adrian Beltre’s picture is in Webster’s dictionary next to “contract year player”. The guy simply doesn’t produce at the same level unless there’s new money to be scored. I understand the impetus for Beltre. Here’s a look at Beltre’s stats when still under contract for the next year(s) vs. free agent season:

Under contract average per 162 games:

R     H     2B    3B    HR    RBI    SB   CS   BB   SO   BA                                                                   80 163   34     3      25       89      11    4    48   105  .271

Contract year average per 162 games:

R     H     2B    3B    HR    RBI    SB   CS   BB   SO    BA                                                                     89  181   40     2      29      98      10    3     46  105   .284

It’s not a huge difference, but Beltre is obviously better in the traditional Rotisserie categories during a contract year; save SB.

For fantasy implications, a potential drafter can probably expect Beltre’s 2011 numbers to be closer to former stat line. Take that for what it is worth.

But what is this contract really saying about Nolan Ryan’s Rangers? Have they taken a look at their minor leagues and deemed that their best chance at victory is in 2016, not 2011? That’s some serious foresight if that is, in fact, the case. But Ryan Express seems like the kind of guy who lives in the now.

Another interesting tid bit concerning Beltre’s contract is here:

Per his contract, Beltre gets to wear jersey No. 29 with the Rangers. Center fielder Julio Borbon wore No. 29 for Texas last year.

There’s also that other thing about Beltre:

So, Adrian Beltre can’t stand having his head touched AND he’s just like Wesley Snipes in “The Fan“? Somehow I don’t feel like this is going to end well for the Texas Rangers…until 2016, of course.

Note: I don’t actually think the Rangers signed Beltre in hopes that the stars align for the 2016 season. But I do believe that the last year of his contract will be the best offensive output of the entire deal.

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