Today is our fourth or 12th installment of "Mock Draft MONDAYYYyyyyyy..." (you have to read it like a TV announcer falling down a well).
Emack and I took part in two mock drafts once again this afternoon, at 2pm ET., so come check out the new Mock Draft product.
I found out this past weekend that CBSSports.com will officially be hosting the Tout Wars experts leagues this season. This is my fourth season in the mixed league group. The AL league was detailed in Sam Walker's FantasyLand book. (If you still haven't read this, you're dead to me.)
Here's my review of FantasyLand from 2006:
When you think about it, what is Fantasy Baseball? Isn't it just the chance for an Average Joe to manage baseball players from a statistical standpoint, in hopes of proving their knowledge of the game by dominating other Average Joes?
What if that Average Joe had a chance to give his slumping players a pep talk? What if he had the opportunity to scout free agents in person or talk to the managers of opponents' players for possible trades?
Sam Walker did just that -- and then some. Fantasyland: A Sportswriter's Obsessive Bid to Win the World's Most Ruthless Fantasy Baseball League chronicles one man's hilarious quest for Fantasy Baseball dominance by using every available outlet at his disposal. That includes talking to players, scouts, managers and general managers as he attempts to win the Tout Wars, possibly the greatest of all Fantasy Baseball expert leagues.
This book is a wonderful read for any Fantasy enthusiast. Walker finally does what all of us wish we could. He takes you from spring training, to the auction, to the trade deadline, all the way through the final month of Fantasy play in a raucous ride that only Fantasy players would truly understand.
Walker, a sportswriter by trade with the Wall Street Journal, assembled a three-man team to attack the Tout Wars auction. He hired a grizzled Fantasy freak that went by the name Nando, along with a NASA biomathematician named Sig to crunch the numbers. Each member of this Fantasy triad brought special things to the table. Sig had the ability to run anything and everything through the computer for statistical analysis. Nando had the Fantasy experience to assist any new owner to a championship. And Sam had the connections with players, managers and scouts to help get the extra edge on the competition.
Sam, Sig and Nando -- that sounds like a fourth edition to The Lord of the Rings.
Walker also did his best to finally figure out which is more important: a scout's eye or a statistician's algorithms? Can a scout see something that the numbers don't already tell us and vice versa?
Do major leaguers care, or even know, about Fantasy Baseball? Walker talks to a number of players including Jacque Jones and the always entertaining David Ortiz. Big Papi even gives Walker Fantasy trade advice about one of his players -- him!
Not only is this book an incredibly entertaining read, but I guarantee it will actually help your own Fantasy game as you learn what some of the top Fantasy minds in the industry are thinking. He speaks candidly to a number of touts, including Ron Shandler, Jason Grey and Lawr Michaels, three names that have permeated the industry for several years.
Mark Reynolds has given up trying to become something he's not -- a patient hitter. In today's Arizona Republic, he talks how all spring he has been trying to cut down on his strikeouts, while working counts deeper. "I realized that's not me," he said. "I'm swinging at the first strike I see. Hanging curveball, hanging slider, fastball, whatever. That's what got me here, so I don't think I need to change it. I just realized, 'Why am I trying to change something that got me to the major leagues?' Strikeouts are going to be there. I've accepted it. I don't care what anybody writes about it or anybody says. It's just me." He poked 20 doubles, four triples and 17 homers in 366 at-bats (along with 129 strikeouts), and he proved early on that he has the power to help mixed league teams in all formats. Those strikeouts can hurt H2H players, but the extra-base ability should offset it in a full season.
The Atlanta Journal-Constitution notes another '07 rookie that's ready for a huge sophomore season. Yunel Escobar hit his second homer of the spring on Sunday, and he's batting .473 with 12 RBI in the exhibition season so far. Hitting coach Terry Pendleton watched Escobar crush batting practice pitches out of the playing field before the game and commented, "He's strong as an ox." You like to hear similes like that for a player you can start at shortstop, second base and third base this year. I've mentioned in the past how the Braves are in love with this kid and that stud-SS prospect Brent Lillibridge has been forced to find a different path to the majors. If you miss out on the top shortstops, don't feel bad if you have to wait until the later innings and pick up someone as promising as Escobar.
Mark it down -- 12:25pm, Emack has already spilled a taco down the front of his shirt.
Roch Kubatko, one of the easiest names to slip off the tongue, is the Orioles beat writer for the Baltimore Sun. In today's blog, he noted that he thinks the Brian Roberts deal will still go down with the Cubs. He thinks Jay Payton comes along with Roberts, and that five players come back in return.
We know that some of the players mentioned on the way back to Baltimore include: RHPs Sean Gallagher and Jason Marquis, LHPs Sean Marshall and Donald Veal, and SS Ronny Cedeno. Emack and I were both surprised that Corey Patterson's younger brother, Eric Patterson, wasn't mentioned in the deal. He's a solid 2B prospect that would make sense in Baltimore's plans. But their intent on fortifying their pitching staffs in the majors as well as Triple-A mandates them seeking more arms. Don't expect ALL of those pitchers to go to Baltimore, but a combo of Gallagher/Marshall/Veal with Marquis, Cedeno and a throw-in makes sense. Remember that Marquis has been anything but graceful in his complaints about not being guaranteed a Cubs starting rotation spot. He is finally helping his case though, with a 2.00 ERA in nine spring innings (three appearances).
The Boston Globe put this schedule up Monday. It's possible that, depending on how your league is set up for the first week, that brand new daddy Daisuke Matsuzaka will get a super-rare three-start Fantasy scoring period in Week 1. Asterisks indicate the Globe's educated guess at the starting pitcher.
- March 21: Red Sox vs. Hanshin Tigers (Japan) -- Clay Buchholz
- March 23: Red Sox vs. Yomiuri Giants (Japan) -- Tim Wakefield
- March 25: Red Sox vs. Athletics (Opener in Japan) -- Daisuke Matsuzaka
- March 26: Red Sox vs. Athletics (Japan) -- Jon Lester
- March 28: Red Sox at Dodgers (Exhibition) -- TBA
- March 29: Red Sox at Dodgers (Exhibition @ LA Coliseum) -- TBA
- March 30: Red Sox at Dodgers (Exhibition) -- TBA
- April 1: Red Sox at Athletics (Regular season) -- Daisuke Matsuzaka *
- April 2: Red Sox at Athletics (Regular season) -- Jon Lester *
- April 4: Red Sox at Blue Jays (Regular season) -- Clay Buchholz *
- April 5: Red Sox at Blue Jays (Regular season) -- Tim Wakefield *
- April 6: Red Sox at Blue Jays (Regular season) -- TBA (possibly Dice-K again)
- April 8: Red Sox vs. Tigers (Home opener) -- TBA
Let's talk Reds pitching. You know you want to.
The Cincinnati Enquirer notes that manager Dusty Baker has all but engraved it in stone that youngsters Johnny Cueto and Edinson Volquez will be in the Reds' rotation out of camp. That means they'll likely join Aaron Harang, Bronson Arroyo and Josh Fogg in the starting five. Notice anyone absent from that group?
Last year's rookie sensation Homer Bailey has an ERA north of 8.00 after four spring appearances (10 2/3 IP). He has nine strikeouts, but eight walks as well. He could be looking at a Triple-A Louisville start to the season again, but don't dismiss him just yet. He could be their first call-up if an injury hits their staff. If you have any reserve space, he's worth a look.
Cueto has been great this spring, turning many heads with an aggressive approach on the rubber, but he got dinged up a bit Monday. More on that later.
It's Volquez, 24, that I want to discuss this afternoon. He came over from the Rangers, who had broken up their vaunted "DVD" prospect group last season when John Danks joined the White Sox (Thomas Diamond is still with Texas, but he's working his way back from Tommy John surgery).
Volquez was inconsistent in both '05 and '06 when he was called up, but he actually pitched well for the Rangers last season, allowing more than three earned runs in only two of eight starts. But this spring, he has been a man possessed.
Volquez has a 3.46 spring ERA after Sunday's five shutout innings against the Phillies' A squad. He threw 69 pitches, 46 of which were for strikes.
When looking at spring stats, one of the first things you take note of on a pitcher -- especially a young one -- is his walks compared to his strikeouts. With just three walks -- and 19 strikeouts -- in 13 innings, Volquez has kept critics at bay. The Reds traded Josh Hamilton for him (with super-OF prospect Jay Bruce waiting in the wings), and it's known that a hitter's ballpark like Cincinnati's can wreak havoc with a young pitcher's confidence. But since Volquez is used to bandbox-itis, coming over from Rangers Park in Arlington, he should be a little more ready than a younger pitcher coming from a different team.
"They're (Volquez and Cueto) pitching like they belong alongside Harang and Arroyo in the rotation," Baker said. "They're dealing. They came in ready to pitch. They played Winter Ball, so they're ahead -- not so much with velocity but with command. That's what you need. They're pounding the strike zone. If you walk people, you have no chance. If you get behind people, you have a little chance."
But there's a reason the Rangers gave him up for an outfielder (and it's not like the Rangers have great pitchers coming out of their ears). Opposing hitters were batting .329 against Volquez, so let's not make him a 15th-round draft pick in mixed leagues just yet. He's someone to think about in keeper leagues though because when he's on, he can rack up Ks, and the Reds' lineup should get him some wins.
For the Rangers, they hope Josh Hamilton's troubles are behind him, of course, but also that he can fit in with the Rangers and not necessarily have the same problems he had in Cincinnati, where rumors circulated that his special treatment and brash attitude were resented by the veterans.
Considering that Michael Young, Hank Blalock and Ian Kinsler attended a news conference in which Hamilton discussed his trials and tribulations with drug abuse, and that Kinsler later asked him to join him for dinner, things seem to be going well. Hamilton said that's the first time a professional teammate has ever extended that courtesy. Now, he's playing video games with Kinsler and Jason Botts.
How's he doing this spring? Well, he's hitting .600 in 12 games, with two homers and 12 RBI. Remember that this is the first spring training he has ever been to in which he already has a job secured. His spring OPS? 1.747. "I don't feel like I have to make the team," Hamilton told the Dallas Morning News. "And when you feel more relaxed, it leads to more confidence and a better approach."
Hamilton enters spring like a lion (he hit .407 in Reds' camp last season) and he could be a solid No. 4 outfielder in mixed leagues this spring.
The Morning News' Evan Grant, another one of my favorite beat writers, notes that Hamilton's batting practice rounds have become legendary already. "From batting practice to the field, it's just amazing," backup CF Marlon Byrd said. "I've never seen a spring like this. You always wonder about players like Vladimir Guerrero and Alex Rodriguez and what it was like seeing them as young players in the spring, and then seeing what they became. If Josh stays on the field 150 to 155 games, there is no reason he shouldn't put up MVP type of numbers."
"It's an absolute joke," Rangers starter Kevin Millwood said about Hamilton's ability. "He doesn't swing at a single bad pitch, and he doesn't miss anything he swings at."