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Fantasy Baseball 2011: Waiver Wire Wonders

Chipper Jones, 3B Atlanta Braves—Here’s a salty veteran for you. Chipper has come flying out of the gates hitting .353 with two RBI and one run. I know it doesn’t look great, but if he can continue to open hot like he has in the past, the RBI and HR numbers will come. Jones is the type of player you ride a hot start with, then dump him as the season goes on and he starts battling injuries. Pick him up and ride out the production.

Brandon Belt, 1B San Francisco Giants—He has not been hitting the ball especially well so far as he’s only going .154 with a homer and four RBI. Yet, it is mainly the fact that he made the team and is getting playing time that should be noticed. Belt is a top prospect with the ability to come in and make an impact as evidenced by his three-run jack on the second game of the season.

Kyle Drabek, SP Toronto Blue Jays—I wrote about him earlier this week, but I’ll say it again. Kyle Drabek is fantasy worthy. The kid’s got a ton of promise that he showed us in his first start by going seven innings giving up one run on one hit with seven strikeouts. Drabek should be a solid play down the stretch this year. Last season, he struggled when he came up, but has had a great spring and another great first start and looks to be an asset for fantasy teams everywhere.

JP Arencibia, C Toronto Blue Jays—Oh look, another rookie and another Blue Jay. Arencibia is another guy I have been hyping for quite some time now. I was happy to see him go 3-for-4 with a couple dingers, five RBI and two runs. Obviously the talent is there, but the question is whether he will get enough playing time to justify picking him up and maybe even starting him. If he can continue to come out of the gate hot, playing time should not be an issue down the road.

Brenan Boesch, OF Detroit Tigers—Boesch struggled last season down the stretch, hitting .163 in his final 68 games. He does not look to be struggling to open this season. He is hitting .500 with a HR, four RBI and five runs. Boesch is not going to blow you away with numbers, but he is young and has the potential to contribute and also has the potential to receive the majority of the at-bats over Ryan Raburn.

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Profile: How Much Gas Does Mariano Rivera Have Left?

Mariano Rivera is 41 years of age, but he is still playing at an incredibly high level.

Last year, he had an ERA of 1.80 in 61 appearances with 33 saves. In fact, in his last eight seasons, he has only had an ERA over two, just once. That’s pretty magnificent for a guy that was supposed to retire three years ago.

Overall, he has played 16 MLB seasons and has compiled a 2.23 ERA and 559 saves. He also has been to the All-Star game a whopping 10 times. He also has won the AL Rolaids Relief award five times. To top it off, he leads all active pitchers in career ERA and is 13th in MLB history.

However, how long will he be able to keep up the production?

In the past three years, I have noticed a steady incline in his ERA. It obviously has not been a dramatic increase, but it is evident.

Even though he only pitched six less innings in 2010 than in 2009, he threw 27 less strikeouts. It seems remarkable that those are the only numbers that have actually shown signs of age, but it might be enough for me to place a red flag on Rivera.

In fantasy baseball, closer is a deep and also somewhat meaningless position. You can find closers for miles upon miles that are usable.

However, I still expect Rivera to have one more plausible season, in the two ERA range, then another declining season in the tank for an over-three ERA. After that, he retires as his contract is up.

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EE Sports World Interview with Mets Prospect Darrell Ceciliani

I got the pleasure of getting to chat with Darrell Ceciliani today, prospect for the New York Mets.

Ceciliani hit .351 with a .410 OBP and had two home runs, 35 runs batted in and 21 stolen bases in 68 games last year for the short A Brooklyn Cyclones of the New York-Pennsylvania League. He also set franchise records of 95 hits, 56 runs and 12 triples.

He was selected as a NYP Mid-Season All Star and won the Mets’ Sterling Award for the Brooklyn Cyclones, which the Mets hand out to a player on each of their nine teams in the minors representing the most improved player.

Ceciliani is a player quickly on the rise to the top, and if he continues his hard work and dedication he will be in the majors in a matter of years. Here at EE Sports World, we are pulling for him every step of the way.

Brandon Berg: What’s the life of a minor league player like? What do you do on a typical day during the regular season?

Darrell Ceciliani: We get up and at ‘em around 10 a.m. and have some breakfast. We get out to the field by one or two. I get my arm worked down and take some batting practice. After that, we just chill and relax. We prepare for the pitcher whether it be a righty or a lefty, and just get into the right mindset. We then do some defensive work, and then play at about 7 p.m.

What level are you going to start at this year? What is the schedule like for Spring Training?

DC: They have been telling me I’ll be starting at Low A Savannah. We get up at seven, get on field at nine, take defense and batting practice then play a game at one. We are usually done by four and then do some lifting and eat around six.

You had a great year last year, what’s the next step for you in terms of development as far as developing your game to get ready for your future baseball playing career?

DC: I have to improve every part of my game to get to the ultimate dream: The big leagues. I go out every day and just work hard to improve everything in my game. If I had to single out a couple of things, it would be that my bunting and base running needs to improve. I use my speed to the best of my advantage to put pressure on the defense. That’s one of the biggest things I’m going to be working on this season.

What was your most memorable moment in your time in the minors so far?

DC: Last year during a game in Brooklyn, I came up in the bottom of the 9th. I hit a walk-off home run. It was a rush, never had a feeling like that. It was really cool to go out there and win the game for the team.

What was your MLB draft experience like?

DC: I actually was in class, taking a couple final exams. My dad was also with me that day to go through the experience with me. I got a call from the coach asking, hurry up, finish the final and get to his office because I had just been picked up by the Mets in the 4th round. That was a great day for me. I was excited, and it was an honor to be chosen where I was and to go out and start my baseball career right away.

How long did it take you to get on the field after the draft?

DC: I was drafted on either the 10th or the 11th. I got to Tennessee to start playing by the 23rd or 24th of June because I had to take a couple finals to finish up.

We want to thank Darrell for the interview and wish him the best of luck as he speeds toward his ultimate goal of reaching the majors.


Also check out:

Ubaldo Jimenez

R.A. Dickey

Yadier Molina

Francisco Liriano

NL East

AL East

NL Central

AL Central

NL West

AL West

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Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Which Ubaldo Jimenez Will We See This Year?

Not many players in baseball will raise a greater debate about their potential production in 2011 as Ubaldo Jimenez will.  We know a couple of things about him for sure; he’s a 6’4″ 27-year-old right-handed Dominican who throws gas.  So much gas in fact, that he has been clocked at 101 mph in games, with a 99 mph two-seamer. That’s right, I said 99 mph two-seamer.

Did he just break out last year with the two best months of his career, or is there still some more magic to be squeezed out of this guy? I say yes, and yes.

Last year basically showed a tale of two different pitchers, both named Ubaldo Jimenez.  One pitched in April and May, and the other in June and July.

The Ubaldo who pitched in April won five games with a 0.79 ERA, and in May won another five games with a 0.78 ERA.

The “other” Ubaldo that pitched in June won four games with a 4.41 ERA, and in July had a 6.04 ERA with only two wins.

But here’s something interesting to consider; the batting average against Jimenez in consecutive months of April–July was .186, .160, .264 and .210.  So while in July he had an ERA of 6.04, the average against him was only .210, which is far from terrible.

This leads me to believe that these two Ubaldos are actually the same guy.  That his ERA in April and May were rather extreme and lucky, and that his ERA in June and July of the very same year were treacherously unlucky.

July heat is rarely kind to anyone’s ERA in Colorado.  But these peripheral numbers show signs of some bad fortune for Jimenez in 2010, who in the beginning of June was having one of the best years we have seen in the past century.

Coors is still a hitters park, but not nearly the way it was before the days of the humidor that they use to contain the balls before games.  In 2010, Jimenez only gave up 10 HRs, and just four of them were at Coors Field.  His fly-ball rate really is not nearly as much of a liability as some may perceive it to be.

It was almost as if in the course of just one year, he experienced the extremes of good and bad luck that Cole Hamels did in ’08 (good luck) and ’09 (terrible luck).  So it seems to me that Ubaldo’s 2011 ERA should fall somewhere in between, perhaps in the 2.70–3.30 range with another 200+ strikeout season.

That’s not bad, right?

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Fantasy Baseball Player Profile: Can Casey McGehee Keep Up His Production?

Casey McGehee is a player whose value could vary a great deal depending on who you talk to.

One thing is for sure, fantasy owners of Prince Fielder last year are certainly well aware of McGehee’s ability to scoop up base-runners and bring them home.  In 2010 Mcgehee drove in 104 runs while his more notable counterpart Fielder, had just 83.

Now let’s be honest here, we are not talking about a guy like McGehee for his speed.  His .288 lifetime average is respectable, but the value McGehee will show this year is directly tied to how many runs he can drive home. 

Some people think that McGehee’s RBI numbers last year were a mirage, and that more of them will be driven in by Fielder (who is in a contract year) and Braun.  That the RBI total was a quantified product of his 610 AB (7th most in NL). 

However, no one is questioning the likes of Ryan Braun to produce runs, and he had 619 AB’s with one less RBI than Casey did.

Am I implying that McGehee is the same caliber hitter as Ryan Braun?  Of course I’m not saying that, but there is good value to be had with a guy like him.  McGehee still has some possible room for growth too, if he can learn to start hitting right-handers with more authority.

In 2010 hit .316 with eight hrs in just 158 AB against lefties, while hitting .274 with 15 hrs in 452 ab’s against righties.

I believe that McGehee should have pretty similar numbers to what he posted last year, with maybe just eight to 10 less RBI to be predicting on the more conservative side.

Fantasy-wise he is a nice value pick in fairly late rounds, especially if you’re looking for some cheap quality run production that won’t punch a hole in your batting average.  The amount of value he can bring will mostly be on how well he can progress against right-handed pitching, since hoping that twice as many lefties will suddenly show up in the bigs is futile.

Be sure to tune in to plenty of MLB action this summer and find out what will happen when McGehee is up to bat.


Also Check out:

R.A. Dickey

Yadier Molina

Francisco Liriano

NL East

AL East

NL Central

AL Central

NL West

AL West

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Fantasy Baseball Player Profiles: Will Mike Leake and Travis Wood Keep Strong?

Last year, the Cincinnati Reds had two young pitchers that burst onto the scene.

One of them was Mike Leake, who skipped the minor leagues and started in the majors instantly. He stole a spot in the Reds‘ rotation and ran away with it. He took the fantasy world by storm by going 5-0 with a 2.22 ERA in his first 11 starts.

After that, he cooled off and his ERA climbed to 4.62 through his last 13 starts. The Reds took notice and shut him down after a start on August 24th, taking the cautious route not to overwork the young arm.

Travis Wood had a similar story, though he didn’t acquire a spot in the rotation to start the season, he was called up and started on July 1st and took advantage of the opportunity.

In his first 9 starts, he compiled an impressive record of 4-1 with a 2.51 ERA. However, just like Leake, he cooled off down the stretch, but still finished with passable stats of a 5-4 record with a 3.51 ERA.

The question remains, will they have enough fantasy value to draft this year?

The biggest obstacle for them to achieve an improvement on last season weighs on the pitching rotation race this year.

Current ‘locks’ for starting spots are Bronson Arroyo, Edinson Volquez and Johnny Cueto. That leaves Wood, Leake and another young arm, Homer Bailey, the favorites to battle out the final two spots with Dontrelle Willis as a long shot. Lucky for them, Cuban fireballer Aroldis Chapman is going to reside in the bullpen for 2011.

Both of the players have a decent shot at winning a rotation spot, but are either of them fantasy worthy this year?

Leake is likely going to have his innings capped for this year, so he seems unlikely to put up his numbers for a whole year again. The former first round pick is just one year removed from college, so it only makes sense.

I also don’t expect him to win a rotation spot this year, so some time in Triple-A might help him straighten things out as hitters figured him out down the stretch.

I would expect around 15 starts this year filling in for starting pitchers who land on the DL at times this year.

Wood, on the other hand, will likely not have his innings capped, so if he gains posession of one of the two final spots, he could have a decent season. I don’t think a 3.50 ERA season is out of the question.

You can probably expect around 180 strikeouts, and after posting a 1.08 WHIP last year, a repeat of that figure is highly unlikely, but 1.25 WHIP is in the realm of possibility.

I think Leake has more upside, but is probably a year away from making a true impact in fantasy, and probably in the real thing.

Wood will probably win a starting gig, and is worth a flier in the late rounds of 10 team standard leagues. In deep keeper leagues, it probably wouldn’t hurt to grab Leake late.


Check out our other player profiles:

R.A. Dickey

Yadier Molina

And our MLB Preview Series:

NL East

AL East

NL Central

AL Central

NL West

AL West

MLB Postseason Prediction

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AL West Preview: Can the Texas Rangers Repeat Their Success?

The American League West is not likely to produce the AL World Series representative this year, but it should be a much closer division than it was last year.


Fourth place: Seattle Mariners

Let’s start off with the obvious choice: the Seattle Mariners finishing another year in the cellar.

I do like the fact that their front office is no longer making half-way investments in both the present and the future, but rather acknowledging that they have no chance to be a factor right now.

They are putting all their chips in the rebuilding pot. Mark my words: starting pitcher Michael Pineda and former Tar Heel second-baseman Dustin Ackley will be serious ballers at the big level—just not in 2011.

Although I expect guys like Chone Figgins and Franklin Gutierrez to have more consistent seasons this year, let’s face it: That’s just not enough, and bringing in a strikeout-a-saurus like Jack Cust won’t change that.

Ichiro will be Ichiro, racking up a record 11th consecutive 200-plus hit season, but he can count on being stranded for the majority of another year.

The Mariners have the most dominant AL pitcher in Felix Hernandez; it’s too bad they can’t make four clones of him.


Third place: Oakland Athletics

The Oakland Athletics have a nice young group of starting pitchers that includes Trevor Cahill, Brett Anderson, Gio Gonzalez and Dallas Braden. Add a respectable bullpen to that in Homer Bailey, Brian Fuentes and still-recovering fireballer Brad Ziegler, and I believe the A’s could surprise some people this year by not completely sucking.

But where are the bats?

Granted, pitching wins games, especially in the playoffs. But forget about going to the playoffs if you have no offense.

The A’s offense rivals the Mariners as one of the worst in baseball.

Who’s gonna drive in runs this year in Oakland? Kevin Kouzmanoff? Can Josh Willingham really stay healthy long enough to be a difference-maker this year? A person with active brain cells has to doubt that.

Also, please don’t bother telling me that always-injured DH Hedeki Matsui will be the saving grace for the 2011 A’s lineup. That’s not going to be pretty.

Once again, I do think the Athletics’ pitching can keep them within 7–9 games of first place in the AL West, and even possibly spend early parts of the season at the top of the division, but Oakland is unlikely to finish 2011 higher than third.


Second Place: Texas Rangers

I know a lot of people think the Texas Rangers will take this division again this year, but I’m not one of them.

Yes, they will score the most runs in this division, but without Cliff Lee their starting rotation will be led by C.J. Wilson, Colby Lewis, Scott Feldman and Tommy Hunter. Not exactly terrible, but not terribly reliable either.

Let’s not even mention Brandon Webb, unless you’re the type that likes watching grass grow.

Neftali Feliz is a very nice closer, but it’s gonna take contributions from badly aging middle relievers like Arthur Rhodes (41), Darren Oliver (yes, he’s still alive) and Mark Lowe just to get to the ninth so Feliz can give them a chance.

As for the offense, AL MVP Josh Hamilton has missed a total of 102 games the past two seasons, and I just don’t think that will drastically change.

Same goes for teammates Nelson Cruz, who has missed 88 games in that time, and Ian Kinsler, who has missed 77 games in that two-year span. Hamstring issues can be chronic with some players, and no other offense seems to suffer from them more.

Add in the fact that Adrian Beltre just got paid, which means he will return to mediocrity like he always does after a big contract.

In the process of signing Beltre, Texas misled all-time Rangers hit leader Michael Young, who now wants to be traded, and they don’t have a chance at getting nearly as much for him as they could have five years ago.

Recent reports have noted that the Rangers are testing Neftali Feliz as a possible starter in an attempt to mitigate the loss of Cliff Lee, leaving Mark Lowe to take over closing duties. While the concept is somewhat understandable, I believe it’s a bad idea.

In 2011, I see the Rangers coming just a couple games short of an AL West title and getting beaten out for a wild-card bid by a similar margin by the Yankees, White Sox, Twins or Tigers.


First Place: Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim

The Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim of California of the United States of North America of Earth, or whatever you wanna call them, will win the American League West in 2011. I certainly can’t say they’ll run away with the division, but with the offensive futility of the bottom two teams and a lesser Texas squad this year, I see an opening for them.

The Los Angeles offense probably won’t score as much as Texas’. Vernon Wells does cost a lot more than he should. Torii Hunter is nearly 36, and Bobby Abreu nearly 37.

However, I think these veterans can do just enough this year to get it done while showing better overall durability than most hitters in the Lone Star State. Most importantly, Kendry Morales will back this year with his big bat and an all-too-important promise not to jump straight on home plate after hitting walk-off homers.

In 2010, that was exactly how the Angles lost momentum and any chance at catching  the Rangers.

Along with the return of Kendry Morales, the biggest reason I am picking the Angels is their starting pitching. Jared Weaver really shined as an elite AL pitcher last year, and he will be plenty focused to repeat that in 2011—it’s a contract year for him.

Dan Haren returned to form as a dominant pitcher after the All-Star break last year and shows no signs of falling off from that.

Ervin Santana, who once was known as a guy with extreme splits between home and away performances, seems to have finally figured out the same thing on the road he has always known at home: that he doesn’t need to strike everyone out to be successful.

As a matter of fact, the Angels would prefer Santana to take that approach more often to keep his pitch count down. I believe he has learned the lesson, but it is nice to know you can throw the ball by a hitter when it’s needed.

These Angels pitchers can certainly do that.

If Scott Kazmir could avoid missing a plethora of starts, the Angels would have their way with the division easily, but that’s truly wishful thinking.

I love the much-needed addition of Scott Downs to the bullpen. Jordan Walden should be a pleasant surprise this year as well, which is why I believe the Halos will take the AL West crown in a tight race.


Check out our other division previews:

NL East
AL East
NL Central
AL Central
NL West

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NL West Preview: Will the San Francisco Giants’ Success Carry into This Season?

1. San Francisco Giants (92-70)

They may have barely snuck into the playoffs last year, but their rings show just how well put together this team is.

With a starting rotation that features some of the best young arms the league has to offer, their offense can afford to put up relatively low totals as they watch the opposing hitters sit down one by one.

Throw in one of the best young phenoms in Buster Posey and you have the makings of a squad that can compete in a fairly mediocre division for years to come.


2. Colorado Rockies (85-77)

I have one question for all of the doubters out there: “What kind of monstrosity of a line would Trow Tulowitzki have put up over 162 games?”

Scary thought huh?

Oh, AND they have a triple-crown candidate, too? The pitching staff is the only knock I can find against this team, but with Ubaldo Jimenez at the top of the rotation, it can’t be too bad.


3. Los Angeles Dodgers (81-81)

Boy, if there is one common denominator in the NL West, it is young studs.

Sure there’s Posey, Carlos Gonzalez, Mat Latos and Justin Upton, but the one-two punch of Clayton Kershaw and Chad Billingsley makes a Padres fan like me shiver.

We saw (hopefully) the worst-case scenario out of Matt Kemp last year, and Andre Ethier is no joke. Of course, being the Dodgers, something or other will go wrong, and .500 is where they will hover.


4. San Diego Padres (79-83)

Watching Adrian Gonzalez go should have brought a tear to my eye, but such is the fate of a “small market” fan.

Last year, I begged for the Pads to prove me wrong, and they sure did.

Well, up until the final 20 games or so. Then the paper façade fell and the real Friars were revealed.

There just is not a big bat here and Petco can only protect them 81 games out of the year. I might be a little overly cynical here, but I guess they will just have to prove me wrong again.


5. Arizona Diamondbacks (75-87)

I’ll tell you what, if the D’backs could make contact with the ball, they would be one helluva team.

Of course, that seems to be asking a lot of Mark Reynolds and Co.

Let’s face it; without a major overhaul, this team is a few good developmental years away from ever challenging for a division title again.


Check out our other division previews

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NL Central Preview: Can the Cincinnati Reds Repeat?

The National League Central has picked up steam in the offseason.

Last year, it was touted as one of the worst divisions in baseball. Now, the Cubs have picked up pitcher Matt Garza, the Brewers got Zack Greinke and Shaun Marcum and the young Reds have a year of experience.

Has anyone added enough to overtake the Reds?

Let’s take a look and find out.

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