As promised, today will begin a seemingly endless string of blog entries that will hopefully be entertaining and informative. If not please send all complaints to Anthony Perri as he's the brainchild behind the decision to give me an open forum. For those loyal readers who look forward to reading my player notes, you will notice that I've been a bit absent from the Fantistics preseason lineup prior to this past week, I'd like to apologize. I've been busy conducting draft after draft as I attempt to build my own fantasy empire. I'm currently running 14 teams, with 1 draft left to go. I was supposed to attend a FBA (Fantasy Baseball Anonymous) meeting last week, but a draft got in the way. Now that I've gotten that out of the way and apologized to all 3 of my loyal readers (this includes my father and 2 league-mates), I'll get on to the good stuff.
As I mentioned in yesterday's preseason projection notes, I'm looking to be quite active in this space. While I will be posting "rants"about my beloved Cubs inability to defend in the OF, throw strikes while on the mound, or take the occasional walk, I'll also be utilizing this space to help share ideas that will hopefully improve your chances of coming home with your league's title. Sometimes the articles will be strictly about fantasy strategies/theories and sometimes they'll just be about baseball; because as much as I'm a nut about fantasy sports, I'm a baseball fan at heart. As for today's entry, I'll be tackling my own personal predictions for the 2007 MLB season.
Here's how I'm going to go about this: I'm going to take each division and break down the actual standings along with a hopefully *quick* blurb about the team. At the end of each team breakdown I'll try to identify one player that I feel is overvalued for fantasy purposes and one player that is undervalued currently along with one "deep sleeper". This way I can put some sort of fantasy spin on these predictions.
Here goes nothing...
1. New York Yankees
I know it's chic to pick against the "Evil Empire"every year, but I'm not in the business of being stylish (honestly how could I? I look like Zach Greinke or Barry Manilow). I think the Yankees and Red Sox will battle it out again this year for the division crown but ultimately the depth of the Yankees will win out. The lineup will punish opposing pitching staffs by grinding through AB after AB and the underrated depth on their pitching staff (both bullpen and starting) will go a long way in allowing them to continue their run of AL East Championships.
Overvalued: Derek Jeter, Robinson Cano
Undervalued: Kei Igawa, Johnny Damon
Deep Sleeper: Josh Phelps
2. Boston Red Sox
The Red Sox off-season was filled with patching holes on a team that suddenly resembled nothing like the 2004 World Champions. The Red Sox signed Julio Lugo to fill a gaping hole at SS along with JD Drew to try to add the type of thump to the lineup that the Yankees had added in the previous season with Bobby Abreu. They then spent extravagantly, but wisely, on the acquisition of Daisuke Matsuzaka. The Red Sox rotation, if healthy, could be the best in baseball and the lineup appears to have regained some of the depth it had lost before, but I think the lack of depth in the pitching (both starting and bullpen) could be the reason the Red Sox fall a few games shy of the Yankees at the end of the year.
Overvalued: Josh Beckett
Undervalued: JD Drew
Deep Sleeper: Hideki Okajima
3. Toronto Blue Jays
The Blue Jays come off one of the more quiet 87 win, 2nd place finish seasons in recent history. In the off-season they added Frank Thomas to a lineup that already murdered LH pitching and appear set to boast one of the better offenses in the league. While they were able to acquire Thomas, they struck out on re-signing Ted Lilly and also lost out on the Gil Meche bidding choosing instead to rely on some cheaper retreads to potentially churn out league average performances. I think the Blue Jays are set for a bit of a regression this year as the pitching depth worries me and career years from Vernon Wells, Lyle Overbay, and Alex Rios will be tough to repeat. Look for them to finish closer to the Orioles this season than the Red Sox.
Overvalued: Vernon Wells
Undervalued: Lyle Overbay
Deep Sleeper: Aaron Hill
4. Baltimore Orioles
The Orioles might end up being the most improved team this year that goes completely unnoticed. Coming off a year in which they only won 70 games, I could see them improving into the high 70's low 80's ranges with some good luck. They've taken the necessary steps to rebuild the bullpen and Leo Mazzone will be in his 2nd year working with a young staff filled with nasty stuff. Throw in an underrated offense of solid veterans and they look like a .500 team to me. Of course playing in this division could push them down a few notches, but I see somewhere in the neighborhood of 78 wins this season for the O's.
Overvalued: Brian Roberts
Undervalued: Nick Markakis
Deep Sleeper: Adam Loewen
5. Tampa Bay Devil Rays
After years of drafting towards the top of the first round, the Rays are finally started to see some top tier talent reaching the major leagues. Unfortunately for them it's all on the hitting side and most of it is OF type talent. The Rays could boast the most meaningful fantasy OF this year with Crawford, Young, and Baldelli all potentially filling up 5 categories. On the pitching end they've found their legitimate ace in Scott Kazmir but have little depth behind him. James Shields and Jae Seo could be productive league average or slightly better guys but after that it gets very thin and the bullpen isn't much prettier. They'll score plenty of runs this year but they'll struggle against better pitching staffs that can exploit their hitters lack of patience and they just don't have the pitching right now to contend. I see a small step forward for the Rays in '07 bringing them closer to 70-75 wins than the 61 they posted in '06.
Overvalued: Delmon Young
Undervalued: Rocco Baldelli
Deep Sleeper: Jae Seo
1. Cleveland Indians
I love the Indians this year and it all starts with my unhealthy infatuation with Grady Sizemore and Travis Hafner. These guys have been 2 of the best players in baseball for a couple years now and people are just starting to come around to their immense talents. Hafner is the same hitter as David Ortiz with the unfortunate luck of falling on the DL the last two seasons to limit his numbers a bit and Grady Sizemore is like Carlos Beltran, only a better hitter. Sizemore's incredible 92 extra base hits last season produced one of the more underrated fantasy seasons in recent history. The Tribe had a run differential last year that should've produced in the mid to upper 80's in wins and with a bit of luck this season and a revamped bullpen should push for 90+. They sport one of the more underrated pitching staffs in all of baseball led by CC Sabathia, have a wave of young talent coming to help out (Sowers, Adam Miller) and brought in some veterans to help stabilize the bullpen. I love everything about the Indians this year and are picking them not only to win baseball's toughest division, but to win the whole thing.
Undervalued: Grady Sizemore (yes still), CC Sabathia
Overvalued: Victor Martinez
Deep Sleeper: Adam Miller, Shin-Soo Choo
2. Detroit Tigers
I still like the Tigers to finish 2nd in this division despite the loss of Kenny Rogers for half the season because of their depth. Right now they'll plug in Chad Durbin as the 5th starter but with #1 pick Andrew Miller waiting in the wings along with Zach Miner and Jordan Tata (great name), the Tigers should be able to plug the gap left by Rogers. They've added to the offense this year with Gary Sheffield to help spark an offense that was entirely too long-ball dependent (6th in the league in HR's, 24th in OBP) and while they've lost Jamie Walker in the bullpen they still have the Zumaya, Rodney, Jones combo to finish out games. I see the Tigers taking a step back from their 95 win season last year because too many things went right for them last year with health and performance and see them finishing closer to 90 wins this year. That should keep them in the AL Central race down to the wire, but ultimately I think they'll fall a few games short of both the division and the wild card races.
Undervalued: Carlos Guillen, Todd Jones
Overvalued: Justin Verlander, Joel Zumaya
Deep Sleeper: Andrew Miller
3. Minnesota Twins
I would love to pick the Twins to finish 2nd in the AL Central this season but I think the decision to start Ramon Ortiz, Sidney Ponson, and Carlos Silva ahead of Matt Garza early in the season will cost them a few wins that they can't afford in a tight division race. I also see some regression in the batting averages of Joe Mauer and Justin Morneau this season along with some lesser batting performances out of the "Piranhas". I think the Twinkies are in for a disappointing 85 win season that sees them fall short of the Tigers and Indians race for the division crown.
Undervalued: Tori Hunter, Boof Bonser
Overvalued: Joe Mauer
Deep Sleeper: Jason Kubel
4. Chicago White Sox
I like the approach Kenny Williams took to this off-season by trying to extend the White Sox window on the fly by getting younger, but on the whole I don't like this team's prospects for the 2007 season. The rotation has regressed after the incredible 2005 season, the bullpen has thinned out and their offense is coming off a season in which Joe Crede, AJ Pierzynski, and Jermaine Dye all produced career years, AND they stayed relatively healthy all year. I think this team is in for a BIG falloff and I think they'll struggle to get to .500.
Undervalued: Javier Vazquez
Overvalued: Jermaine Dye, Bobby Jenks
Deep Sleeper: Mike MacDougal
5. Kansas City Royals
The Royals have some nice pieces, but they're one of a handful of teams heading into the 2007 season that has legitimately no shot at competing for a playoff spot. Best case scenario, Alex Gordon makes a big impact immediately, Gil Meche stays healthy and pitches up to his contract all year, winning 14 games, and the Royals make an improvement into the mid 70's win range. The worst case scenario is essentially a repeat of the last few seasons. I see somewhere in between and a high 60's, low 70's win total for the Royals.
Undervalued: David DeJesus, Ryan Shealy
Overvalued: Mark Teahen
Deep Sleeper: Esteban German, Billy Butler
1. Anaheim Angels
I think the Angels are going to have a hard time losing this division this year as every other team in the division seems to have regressed while the Angels have stayed the same. The Angels strength is their deep rotation and bullpen that allows them to overcome some plate discipline issues offensively. Once again the Angels were unable to find some protection for Vlad, but on the whole they've deepened out their offense a bit this year and should be good enough to win the division with a high 80's win total.
Undervalued: Vlad, Scott Shields
Overvalued: Francisco Rodriguez
Deep Sleeper: Casey Kotchman, Mike Napoli
2. Oakland Athletics
I trust Billy Beane too much to throw the A's further down this list but I'm very skeptical about their playoff chances heading into this season. I don't think they can compete for a wild card spot so their best chance of getting into the playoffs will be through the division and hoping the Angels struggle. The A's will be highly dependent on Rich Harden making 30+ starts this year as the consistent presence of Barry Zito now cannot be relied upon. The rotation looks thin after Harden as Joe Kennedy or Jason Windsor will be relied upon to eat up innings. The bullpen looks strong as usual with Street, Duchsherer, and Calero helping to shorten the game and the offense will plug away with a reliance on Chavez, Piazza and Swisher to pick up the slack from Frank Thomas' departure. My biggest concern for the A's this season is they're so heavily dependent on players with big injury concerns such as: Crosby, Harden, Stewart, Chavez, Kotsay, Bradley and they just don't have the depth to make up for it if a few of them go down.
Undervalued: Eric Chavez, Dan Haren
Overvalued: Mike Piazza
Deep Sleeper: Travis Buck
3. Texas Rangers
The Rangers sill haven't been able to find the necessary pitching to compliment the loaded offense they've had over the past few years and it's going to continue to hinder their ability to compete for a playoff spot. This off-season they made a bold move for Brandon McCarthy in moving their top pitching prospect John Danks and signed Eric Gagne to help add depth to the end of the bullpen behind Akinori Otsuka, but did little else. The end result is a thin rotation that's depended on heavily by Vicente Padilla and Brandon McCarthy along with a solid bullpen and lineup. The offense also takes a hit from the loss of mid-season acquisition Carlos Lee and from my perspective the Rangers look like a .500 team with the upside to get to 86 wins, but unlikely to reach that upside.
Undervalued: Ian Kinsler, Gerald Laird
Overvalued: Eric Gagne, Kevin Millwood
Deep Sleeper: Nelson Cruz
4. Seattle Mariners
As much as I love the Indians heading into this season is as much as I dislike the Mariners heading into this season. They've somehow managed to spend over $100 million dollars this year for one of the worst teams in baseball and they have little on the way in the farm system to boot. Bill Bavasi should've been fired years ago and he continues to dig a deeper hole for the Mariners franchise. It's a shame that the King Felix era will be filled with futility.
Undervalued: Felix Hernandez, Jose Vidro
Overvalued: Raul Ibanez, Kenji Johjima, JJ Putz
Deep Sleeper: George Sherrill, Adam Jones
Division Winners: NY Yankees, Cleveland Indians, Anaheim Angels
Wildcard: Boston Red Sox
Playoffs: Cleveland Indians defeat Boston Red Sox
New York Yankees defeat Anaheim Angels
Cleveland Indians defeat New York Yankees