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MLB Fantasy Baseball: 99 Predictions for the 2011 Season

Some are bolder than others, but here are 99 predictions for the upcoming 2011 season to whet your baseball palate.


American League

1. Matt Wieters will eclipse 20 home runs. With the additions of veteran hitters such as Vladimir Guerrero, Mark Reynolds and Derrek Lee, Wieters can relax and get back to what made him the highest-rated catching prospect since Joe Mauer. (Chris)

2. Brian Matusz will make a similar jump to the ones made by David Price and Clayton Kershaw in their second years. From August 1st on he had a 2.18 ERA. (Chris)

3. Kevin Gregg, the closer nobody ever wants, will save 23-plus games for the fifth straight year. (Chris)

4. Carl Crawford will reach a .300 average, 100 runs, 20 home runs, 100 RBI and 30 stolen bases. He will also be the best outfielder this year. (Chris)

5. Adrian Gonzalez will not hit 40 home runs. It will take him some time to get used to American League pitching and the Green Monster will turn some would-be home runs into long singles. (Chris)

6. There will be no closer controversy in Boston; Jonathan Papelbon saves 40 games. (Chris)

7. John Lackey will win 15 games and have an ERA under 4.00, a WHIP in the 1.20s and 175 strikeouts. His posted a 3.97 ERA, 1.22 WHIP with 88 strikeouts in 102 innings after the All-Star break last year. (Chris)

8. Alex Rodriguez will hit 40 home runs for the first time in four years and owners will feel silly for barely making him a second round pick. (Chris)

9. Jesus Montero will not make an impact on the Yankees this year. However, he will make an impact on another team in the second half of the year. (Chris)

10. Jorge Posada will hit 20 home runs as the Yankees primary DH. Another reason not to draft a catcher in the first five rounds unless you’re in a two catcher league or Mauer inexplicably falls to you. (Chris)

11. Derek Jeter will bat over .300, proving that his .270 batting average last year was a fluke and not the sign of a declining skill set. (Chris)

12. John Jaso will rank third among catchers in runs, behind only Mauer and Victor Martinez. Jaso’s OBP last year was .372 and he’ll share leadoff duties on the Rays. (Chris)

13. James Shields parties like its 2008. Despite an ERA of 5.18 last year, his xFIP was 3.72 and his K/9 was 8.28. Compare that to 2009 and 2010 when his K/9 was 6.70 and 6.84, respectively. (Chris)

14. Jake McGee won’t be the Rays closer at the start of the year but he ends up with the most saves. Kyle Farnsworth has failed as a closer before and McGee showed his potential dominance as areliever in Triple-A last year when he posted a 0.52 ERA to go along with a K/9 of 14.02. (Chris)

15. After hitting six home runs last September, Travis Snider of the Toronto Blue Jays will hit 25 this year. (Chris)

16. Edwin Encarnacion, Snider’s teammate, hit eight home runs after September 1st. He will also hit 25 this year. (Chris)

17. Brett Cecil will have an ERA under 3.75. If you take out his last five starts in September, his ERA would have been 3.76. He also lowered his walk rate from 3.66 in 2009 to 2.81 last year. Now in his second full year, Cecil shouldn’t tire as much in the second half. (Chris)

18. Despite all the offseason hoopla surrounding Miguel Cabrera, he will finish the season with a .300 batting average, 30 home runs and 100 RBI. Money. In the. Bank.  (George)

19. Playing mostly as a DH, Victor Martinez will hit .300 with 25 home runs and 90 RBI, making him the No. 1 catcher. (George)

20. There’s a lot of hype surrounding Max Scherzer, but he will finish outside the top 30 starting pitchers and struggle with his control (1.30-1.35 WHIP) over a full season. (George)

21. Adam Dunn won’t just hit 40 home runs, but will approach 50 and lead the majors. Thank you, U.S. Cellular Field. (George)

22. It might be time to give up on Jake Peavy. He will have another disappointing season and make fewer than 20 starts. (George)

23. Gordon Beckham will continue his success from the second half of last year and finish 2011 with at least a .300 batting average. (George)

24. By the end of the year everyone will know who Michael Brantley is because of his 30-plus stolen bases. He finally has a full-time job.  (George)

25. Chris Perez was a bit lucky in the ERA/WHIP departments last year, but he will finish 2011 with at least 30 saves and 70 strikeouts, putting him in the top 10 among relief pitchers. (George)

26. The best starting pitcher on the Cleveland Indians by the end of the year will be Carlos Carrasco. He will post an ERA in the mid-4’s and a WHIP of 1.35, but you still do not want to own him in mixed leagues. (George)

27. Alcides Escobar continues the disappointing start to his career and will not reach 30 stolen bases, giving him minimal fantasy value. (George)

28. Alex Gordon has been tearing it up this spring (.353 AVG, 6 HR, 12 BB, 15 K) and finally puts it together for a full season. (George)

29. Top prospect Mike Moustakas gets called up in mid-May and ends the year with more than 15 home runs. (George)

30. Francisco Liriano was one of the best pitchers last year in terms of FIP (2.66) and will be a top-10 pitcher as he further removes himself from Tommy John surgery. (George)

31. Concussions are not something to mess with. All reports are that Justin Morneau feels great in spring, but there will be at least one DL stint in his future. Don’t expect 30 home runs or 100 RBI from him this year. (George)

32. Expect Joe Nathan, who is in the same boat Billy Wagner was in 2009, to finish the year as one of the top five closers in the majors. (George)

33. Vernon Wells won’t top 20 home runs. He hit 21 of his 31 dingers last year in the homer-friendly Rogers Centre, the fourth easiest park for four-baggers in 2010. His new home in LA ranked just 24th. (Bryan)

34. Peter Bourjos fails to meet expectations by stealing fewer than 30 bases. While he’ll get at-bats, a low OBP (think .330) will prevent him from getting enough opportunities. (Bryan)

35. Dan Haren falls short of 200 strikeouts for the first time since 2007. While he’ll still throw 220 innings, Haren has shown a clear AL/NL split in his K/9 highlighted by a 7.18 K/9 in his return to the AL last season. (Bryan)

36. Bobby Abreu, a career .296 hitter, rebounds to bat .285 with his 13th straight 20-steal season. (Bryan)

37. Gio Gonzalez strikes out more batters than in 2010 (171) but finishes with fewer wins (15) and a higher ERA (3.23) and WHIP (1.31). (Bryan)

38. Cliff Pennington steals 35 bases, finishing fourth among all shortstop eligible players and proving he actually does have some fantasy value. (Bryan)

39. Brian Fuentes saves 15 games filling in for Andrew Bailey at various points throughout the season. (Bryan)

40. Dallas Braden posts an ERA under 4.00 for the third straight season and finishes with a team-best 15 wins this season. (Bryan)

41. Justin Smoak bats under .250 with just 17 home runs with less lineup protection than he saw in the minors. (Bryan)

42. Michael Pineda throws 150 innings with 150 strikeouts, winning 10 games in the process. (Bryan)

43. Did you know Chone Figgins has had a line-drive rate of at least 20 percent in each of his eight seasons? He rebounds to bat .280 with 42 steals. (Bryan)

44. Nelson Cruz will lead all outfielders in HR/AB but won’t top 500 at-bats due to at least one DL stint (likely related to his troublesome hamstring). (Bryan)

45. Josh Hamilton will hit more home runs (34) than Elvis Andrus will have extra base hits (30). (Bryan)

46. Derek Holland finally figures things out and wins more games (14) than C.J. Wilson (12). (Bryan)

47. Michael Young finishes the season with 20-plus homers, 90-plus RBI and 700-plus plate appearances, but for all you AL-only managers out there, a large chunk of that production will come as a member of an NL “mystery” team. (Bryan)


National League

48. Craig Kimbrel will claim the closers role for the Braves by May and strikeout 100 batters. His K/9 was an astonishing 17.42 last year in 20.2 innings. (Chris)

49. Chipper Jones will play in 140 games and bat .300 with 20 home runs and 80 RBI, providing great value for those fantasy owners who took a chance on him. (Chris)

50. Dan Uggla will disappoint with a batting average in the .250s. A low line-drive percentage and a lack of speed didn’t support his career high .330 BABIP last year. (Chris)

51. Mike Minor may not have won a rotation spot out of spring training but he’ll still contend for the NL rookie of the year. In 40.2 innings last year his K/9 was an impressive 9.52 and he showed good control (2.43 BB/9). (Chris)

52. Anibal Sanchez will have more strikeouts than teammate Josh Johnson. He finally pitched close to 200 innings last season and has no health questions entering the year. He had a K/9 of 7.25 last year and he threw harder than any other year of his career, averaging a career best 91.3 MPH on his fastball. (Chris)

53. Logan Morrison will hit 10 times as many home runs as last year. Although he only hit two home runs in 244 at-bats he did have 20 doubles and seven triples. At 6’3″ and 237 lbs., there’s definitely more room for him to grow in the power department. (Chris)

54. Ricky Nolasco’s ERA will be under 3.50. The average pitcher had a K/BB ratio of 2.17 last year while Nolasco’s was 4.45. Sure, home runs are a problem for him but he let up a career high 28 in 2008 and he still had a 3.52 ERA and 1.10 WHIP. Plus, his K/BB ratio that year wasn’t as good as it was last year. (Chris)


55. Brad Emaus will have double digit home runs and stolen bases for the Mets. His on-base percentage in the minors the last two years was .402 and .395, respectively. (Chris)

56. Jose Reyes will score 100 runs, steal 40 bases and hit double-digit home runs. He knows those numbers might make him baseball’s next $100 million man in the offseason. (Chris)

57. Lucas Duda will hit 15 home runs. Carlos Beltran is going to miss games and the Mets really like Duda’s bat. The 6’4″, 225 lb. Duda hit 27 home runs last year in 509 at-bats last year splitting time between Double-A, Triple-A and the majors. (Chris)

58. The news on Chase Utley is certainly ominous but he’s defied the odds before by returning from both hip surgery and thumb surgery earlier than expected. He gets 400-plus at-bats this year. (Chris)

59. I’d rather have Cliff Lee pitching game seven of the World Series, but Cole Hamels will be the better fantasy pitcher. Their ERAs will be similar but Hamels will have a lot more strikeouts. He’s also younger and he doesn’t have chronic back problems. (Chris)

60. Jimmy Rollins will hit 20 home runs and steal 25 bases. He’s finally healthy after being plagued by injuries last year. The Phillies will need Rollins, who’s in a contract year, to come up big in a lineup missing Jayson Werth and Chase Utley. (Chris)


61. Michael Morse will hit 25 home runs. He hit 15 home runs in 266 at-bats last year and he locked up a starting spot in left field after a strong spring. He’ll also bat fifth in the lineup behind Jayson Werth, Ryan Zimmerman and Adam LaRoche. (Chris)

62. Jordan Zimmermann will have an era under 3.75, a WHIP in the 1.20s and 175 strikeouts. He’s over a year removed from Tommy John surgery and his fastball is back in the mid-90s. (Chris)

63. Nationals manager Jim Riggleman is using the dreaded closer by committee approach, but Drew Storen will end the year with 30-plus saves. (Chris)

64. Move over Drew Stubbs; Andrew McCutchen will be the first 20/40 player since three did it in 2007. He had 16 home runs and 33 stolen bases last year at the age of 24. (George)

65. 30 home runs for Pedro Alvarez isn’t crazy, but his 34.3 percent strikeout rate last year was. He hits 32 home runs, but bats in the .240s. (George)

66. Joel Hanrahan will lead the team in saves, but don’t forget about Evan Meek. Both will be in the mix for saves by year’s end. (George)

67. Dave Duncan’s newest project, Jake Westbrook, will have an ERA under 4.00 with a 1.25 WHIP. Don’t believe me? Just check his 2010 splits (3.48 ERA/1.25 WHIP in STL). (George)

68. Colby Rasmus improves his strikeout rate (31.9%) and base running (40.0% CS rate) and becomes a 30/20 hitter this year. (George)

69. Look for Yadier Molina, who batted .315 in the second half last year, to rebound in 2011 and become that reliable do-nothing-great-but-do-everything-solid catcher. (George)

70. Brett Myers is being highly undervalued and will have a season much like last year when he was the 23rd best pitcher in fantasy.

71. I predict Michael Bourn brings both the batting average and speed this year. Think .280 AVG and 45-plus steals and better than Juan Pierre. (George)

72. He doesn’t walk much (4.1 BB%) and his BABIP (.385) suggests he was very lucky in 2010. Don’t expect Chris Johnson to repeat his rookie year.

73. Tyler Colvin hits 30 home runs. It’s a big leap, but he was on that pace last year and should get the at-bats. (George)

74. He seems to be fine this spring, which means Aramis Ramirez will return to his old .300/30/100 self for one more season.

75. Carlos Marmol will come back down to earth and not strike out more than 100 batters. His won’t miss as many bats, which means his horrible walk rate will be felt. (George)

76. Thanks to an injury to Zack Greinke and Yovani Gallardo’s second-half struggles, Shaun Marcum will be the Brewers’ best pitcher this year. (George)


77. In a contract year, Prince Fielder will have another monster season and hit .290 with 45 home runs and 120 RBI…much like his 2009 season. (George)

78. Don’t be fooled; despite rumors of newly acquired Nyjer Morgan playing the part of backup, he will steal 30 bases and take over Carlos Gomez‘s job in center field. (George)

79. Drew Stubbs shocked the world in 2010 with a quiet 20/30 season. While I like him as a sleeper, he will not get much better this year and his batting average will remain in the .250s until he cuts down the strikeouts (32.7 K%). (George)

80. Flame-throwing Aroldis Chapman ends the year with the most saves on the team (28). (George)

81. Joey Votto realizes that he is a first baseman and steals fewer than 10 bases this year. (George)

82. Seth Smith will bat .280 with 20 home runs. Nearly all of that damage will come against right-handed pitchers. (Bryan)

83. Troy Tulowitzki won’t hit 15 home runs in any single month. (Bryan)

84. Jhoulys Chacin finishes the year with the lowest ERA of any Colorado starter. (Bryan)

85. Matt Kemp will have the highest combined home run/stolen base total in baseball. (Bryan)

86. Don Mattingly will (temporarily) give ninth inning duties to Hong-Chi Kuo by the All-Star break. (Bryan)

87. Justin Upton finally hits 30 home runs. (Bryan)

88. Daniel Hudson and Ian Kennedy combine to win 30 games. (Bryan)

89. Kelly Johnson hits just 13 home runs, exactly half as many as in 2010. (Bryan)

90. Heath Bell remains a Padre for the entire season and returns to San Diego in 2012. (Bryan)

91. Jason Bartlett almost reaches his 2009 stolen base total by swiping 25 bags for the Padres. (Bryan)

92. Tim Stauffer wins as many games (13) as Mat Latos. (Bryan)

93. Fourth outfielder Chris Denorfia gets more plate appearances than Cameron Maybin. (Bryan)

94. With Adam Wainwright out of the picture, Tim Lincecum returns to form and wins his third Cy Young award. (Bryan)

95. Kung Fu Panda gets back to the 25 homer, 90 RBI threshold he reached in 2009, but he won’t bat .300. (Bryan)

96. Andres Torres shows his late emergence wasn’t a fluke by combining for 40-plus home runs and stolen bases once again. (Bryan)

97. Matt Cain will continue to defy sabermetricians everywhere by posting an ERA substantially lower than his FIP, xFIP or any other metric you throw at him. (Bryan)

98. Jonathan Sanchez goes back to being a 4.00-plus ERA pitcher but keeps the 200-plus strikeouts. (Bryan)

99. I called it before last season and I’m calling it again: Aubrey Huff will threaten to break the .290/25/100 mark. (Bryan)


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MLB: Five Cheap Pitchers to Target in Fantasy Baseball

So, you lost Adam Wainwright.

What do you do?

Well, first you have to question yourself as to why you held your draft so early. Are you really that impatient?

Let this be a lesson to you all—sometimes procrastination works. Last weekend drafts are always better because the season is right around the corner.

But also, what if you owned him in a keeper league? I happen to own him in such a league, where I was planning on him being my ace for years to come. I was feeling good about it as he was coming off a two-year stretch where he amassed 39 wins, two sub-3.00 ERAs and 425 strikeouts over 463 1/3 innings.

As Charlie Sheen would say, “Winning!”

Now, we’re left with nothing for 2011 and possibly more. You just never know.

Below, I focused on five pitchers and did my best, short of a hug, to help you deal with the loss of the best pitcher over the last two seasons. Obviously, these options won’t be as good, but they can help fill the void left on your roster.

These pitchers all have one thing in common—they’re all going undrafted in ESPN mock drafts and should be available in most standard leagues.


Mike Minor, Atlanta Braves

Minor should win the last spot in the Braves’ rotation and I wouldn’t be surprised if he outperformed everyone but Tommy Hanson and Tim Hudson (must be something with the initials T.H.).

Minor has always been an elite strikeout pitcher in the minors and it was nice to see him carry that success over into the Major Leagues. However, the most encouraging sign was his improved control.

Last year, he went from walking 3.24 batters per nine in the minors to 2.43 in the Majors and his 1.57 WHIP was no indication of the talent he has on the mound. Minor posted an extremely unlucky .379 BABIP and while he doesn’t induce ground balls at a high rate (34.9%), his line drive percentage allowed (17.5%) did not warrant that high of a BABIP. Look for Minor, who is more polished than most realize, to strikeout close to one batter per inning, which gives him great value late in the draft.


Derek Holland, Texas Rangers

Save for a worse-than-average walk rate (3.77 BB/9), Holland can help your fantasy team.

For starters, his 8.48 K/9 rate is about where he should be given that he was a strikeout machine in the minors. Also, he is a pretty good ground ball pitcher (42.1 percent) and should get better as he learns to use his changeup more.

Last year, Holland’s changeup went from eight runs below average to right around zero, and while it’s still not a great pitch, the improvement of eight runs shows that there is an upward trend that could continue.

If he can add a good off speed pitch to his arsenal, we could finally see Holland put a nice season together.

We know the Rangers will give him the chance because they have some holes at the back of their rotation.


Scott Baker, Minnesota Twins

Baker has always been a favorite of mine because of his great control. In his six years, his highest his walk rate has been is 2.35 and he’s no slouch when it comes to strikeouts either.

Last year, Baker posted his best strikeout numbers (7.82 K/9), but his tendency to allow the occasional home run was, and always has been, his major downfall. He isn’t a guy who will induce ground balls (career 34.1 GB percent) so he relies heavily on luck on fly balls allowed.

If they stay in the park like in 2008 (8.5 percent HR/FB) then he will put up great numbers (3.45 ERA/1.18 WHIP). If not, you could be in for a long season.


Jason Hammel, Colorado Rockies

There’s something interesting about Hammel. In his last two seasons, he has posted two very different ERAs (4.33 in 2009 and 4.81 in 2010).

However, if you look at his FIP/xFIP splits in both those seasons you will see that he pitched the same both times (3.71/3.81 FIP/xFIP in 2009 and 3.70/3.81 in 2010). Hammel’s problem has always been that he is too hittable, which is why his WHIP is in the upper 1.30’s.

He has given up line drives over 20 percent of the time for three straight seasons. Still, if you’re getting this guy in the very late rounds, he has decent strikeout potential and if he puts up an ERA more like 2009 (4.33) then you will be getting a bargain.


Kyle Drabek, Toronto Blue Jays

Drabek came over in the big Roy Halladay trade and Blue Jays fans could see their return very soon.

Drabek made big strides, especially in his velocity, last year and he should make the team as the fifth starter. As with any rookie pitcher in the American League East, you should draft with caution, but the upside is there.

In 17 innings last year, Drabek had a 62 percent ground ball rate. Yes, it’s a small sample size, but it’s a good sign and Drabek has a very good breaking pitch that induces ground balls at a high rate.

You could go safe and draft a low-risk/low-reward veteran or shoot for the skies with Drabek.


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Baseball Prof’s 2011 NFBC Draft: Rounds 1-15

As fantasy baseball experts, and professors, we naturally look for as many possible ways to challenge ourselves during the baseball season. My favorites are usually “Beat the Streak,” where you choose one hitter every day and try to beat Joe Dimaggio’s 56-game hit streak, and joining obscure leagues with strangers and dominating them. Over the years, we have taken part in countless leagues but this year we decided to up the ante.

That’s right. The professors are doing fantasy baseball—NFBC style.

If you aren’t familiar with the NFBC—National Fantasy Baseball Championship—it’s basically somewhere where fantasy nerds can get together and play for keeps. And by keeps, I mean a bit higher stakes than marbles. They also hold live drafts in select remote locations, but unfortunately we are all on a tight budget these days. You know, the economy…

So we decided to put our heads together and co-co-(tri?)manage a team and see if we can come out on top. With three brains behind the operations of our team (Da Professors, by the way) we already have three times the advantage over the competition. We can’t lose!

Before I dive into analyzing our draft, you must know our league rules. ALWAYS KNOW YOUR LEAGUE RULES BEFORE DRAFTING! Knowledge is power.

League: Rotisserie, 15 teams, mixed

Draft: Slow snake draft, 50 rounds

Starting positions: 2 Catchers, 1 First Baseman, 1 Second Baseman, 1 Third Baseman, 1 Shortstop, 1 Corner Infielder, 1 Middle Infielder, 5 Outfielders, 1 Utility, and 9 Pitchers

Categories: Standard 5×5

It’s a very deep league and we think it will give you a real insight into our strategy for drafting accordingly. We are ready and up for the challenge so let’s get into the first fifteen rounds (225 picks) of this monster draft.

Begin Slideshow

Washington Nationals’ Jordan Zimmermann: Poised for a Comeback Year?

We have already covered a bunch of fantasy player projections for the upcoming 2011 season, and now I want to talk about one guy who I am a big fan of—Jordan Zimmermann.

(Yes, that’s TWO N’s at the end of his last name. Get it right, guys!)

Even though JZ is coming off a season where he was rehabbing from Tommy John surgery, the success stories of Josh JohnsonFrancisco LirianoChris Carpenter and Tim Hudson make me feel confident that he can return at full strength.

It is becoming more common for pitchers to undergo this procedure earlier in their careers if problems start to arise because they can come back stronger once their confidence returns.

In the ESPN mock draft, JZ was drafted in the 21st round (pick 202) by Jason Grey, who I think is the most knowledgeable expert in Bristol, and he also made the top 50 in both Brandon Funston (48) and Brad Evans’ (46) SP rankings over at Yahoo!.

It’s fair to say they are believers as well.

JZ hasn’t posted the greatest numbers in his stint as a pitcher in the big leagues. In 23 career starts, he has a 4.71 ERA and 1.35 WHIP. His real value, though, is in his strikeouts (career 8.79 K/9).

Let me point out the obvious first. JZ’s career numbers are a bit inflated because of his struggles with health and his struggle with his control after his year-long hiatus.

His return in 2010 wasn’t an indication on what type of pitcher he can be, because he was limited to five innings most of the time. Those seven starts were more used to get JZ comfortable pitching again and getting confidence back in all of his pitches.

Excuses aside, JZ is someone who possesses the skills to strikeout more than eight batters per nine, and given that he is over a year removed from his surgery, you can expect him to flash the potential he showed in 2009.

There is value in a pitcher who can strikeout over 150 batters, but don’t expect more than 175 innings because the Nationals will be protective given his health issues.

Like my colleague Bryan Curley pointed out in his Jhoulys Chacin fantasy projection, it’s better to take chances on pitchers with high strikeout upside later in your draft.

The Nationals drafted JZ with the intentions of plugging him into the top of their rotation, and without Stephen Strasburg this year, they will lean on him to deliver.


2011 Fantasy Projection

11-9 | 3.52 ERA | 1.26 WHIP | 157 K | 170 IP

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2011 Fantasy Baseball Report Card: Carl Crawford V. Carlos Gonzalez

When talking about hyped up outfielders this offseason, Carl Crawford and Carlos Gonzalez come to mind.

It’s hard for an eight-year veteran like Crawford to be hyped up, but his move to the loaded Boston Red Sox lineup did just that.

As for Gonzalez, an encore to his monster 2010 season is in order, but will he come out and perform a 25-minute version of “Free Bird” or will he get a bottle thrown at his head a la Axl Rose?

In our 2011 fantasy baseball rankings, we have them both in the top-three among outfielders, so clearly they are both top options.

But who should you draft?

Each player is assigned a grade for each of the five standard offensive categories, plus a few extra I felt were important to factor.

Grades are based on my expectations for the season and take into account both the player’s expected performance relative to the entire player pool and relative to the position he plays at.

Grades were averaged using the standard 4.0 GPA scale to provide a cumulative “Professor’s Grade.”


Category Carl Crawford Carlos Gonzalez Edge?
Professor’s Grade A- (3.50) B+ (3.46) Crawford
Runs A- A- Draw
Batting Average A- B+ Crawford
Home Runs C+ B+ Gonzalez
Runs Batted In B B+ Gonzalez
Stolen Bases A B+ Crawford
Health A- A- Draw
Potential Ceiling A A Draw
Pick Security A- B Crawford


The Case for Crawford

Crawford is the model of consistency.

He steals 40+ bases every season and is a threat to steal 50, his power is constantly in the double-digits and his batting average hovers around .300. Add in the fact that he will probably bat third for the Boston Red Sox and it’s hard not to think 100+ runs and 90-100 RBI aren’t in his future for 2011.

He should be able to keep his home runs up in the high teens now that he is in Boston and he screams top-five potential. He’s going into his ninth full season, so none of this should be a surprise, which is a big reason why he scored an “A-” in the pick security category.

There’s no real injury history to speak of, so feel free to pick him at no risk of being disappointed.


The Case for Gonzalez

No one was better than Gonzalez in 2010. That’s a fact, not an opinion.

The big question here is whether or not he can repeat that performance and Bryan Curley does a great job with that topic in his fantasy projection of CarGo.

He’s a legitimate 30/30 threat, especially playing half of his games at Coors Field, so even if he can’t repeat his .336 batting average, he will provide plenty of value in the counting categories.

He is going ahead of Crawford in some drafts, so you are going to have to pay a pretty penny to get him on your team, but he could be worth it if he can bring the value he did last year.


Who Should You Draft?

As you can tell, these two are very close in value.

Crawford edged out CarGo going 3-2-3 in the eight categories and his final grade (3.50) was a hair better than Gonzalez’s 3.46 mark.

What Crawford lacks in power, he makes up for with the security that you are getting what you pay for. If you want a guy who will definitely hit .300, be among the league leaders in steals while not hurting any of your power stats, Crawford is your guy.

Gonzalez brings the power and speed, while not killing (and possible helping) your batting average.

If I weren’t more risk averse, I would probably take Gonzalez with the hopes that he repeats his 2010 season, but when picking in the first or early-second round, it’s better to take the sure thing.

And that sure thing here is Crawford.


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Tampa Bay Rays: Will B.J. Upton Finally Deliver in 2011?

Hello, my name is George Fitopoulos, and I’m a B.J. Upton apologist.

They say the first step to recovery is acceptance.

There is a popular term among the fantasy universe, “fantasy kryptonite,” which refers to a player who burns you year after year. Well, Upton is that guy for me.

For years, Bossman Junior has faced expectations as ridiculous as that nickname, and he just keeps disappointing. But, with the subtractions of Carl Crawford and Carlos Pena, the Tampa Bay Rays need Upton to step up this year more than ever.

The biggest knock on Upton is his batting average. As of now, his career mark stands at .260, but it has been in a steep decline since he hit .300 in his rookie season.

Now, let’s get something straight—Upton isn’t a .300 hitter, unless he can repeat his .396 BABIP from 2007.

That’s not happening, but a .270 average isn’t out of reach.

Trying to make sense of Upton’s batting average woes will make your head spin. Among qualifying hitters who posted a BABIP over .300 in 2009, Upton had the second-lowest batting average (.241). The same held true last year, except his .237 average ranked last.

That’s a product of his free-swinging style, but at some point his luck has to change.

Right? Right?!

Last year was Upton’s attempt at the perfect storm of bad plate discipline. Take a look at his plate discipline numbers taken from his FanGraphs player page.

To summarize the table, Upton faced fewer pitches in the strike zone (48.9 Zone percent), swung at more pitches outside of the strike zone (25.3 O-Swing percent) and made contact on fewer balls outside of the strike zone (55.2 O-Contact percent). This all led to his career-high 12 percent swinging strikes and a 30.6 strikeout percentage.

I’m considering 2010 his rock-bottom as a hitter.

What I see in Upton is a player who is just about to enter his power-prime and is coming off a season where he hit 18 home runs, despite all the negatives in his approach. In the final two months of last year, Upton slugged 10 home runs and stole 14 bases with a .255 batting average.

I don’t have to remind you that players who end the season strong can carry it over into the next season (i.e. Jose Bautista).

Upton has hit 20 home runs in a season and stolen 40+ bases in three consecutive seasons. Upton’s power is trending in the right direction as he has dramatically cut down on the ground balls the last three seasons (from 50.5 percent to 39.7 percent) and his HR/FB rate increased to 11 percent last season.

Color me optimistic, but I see a 20/40 season in Upton’s near future.

So yes, I am accepting that I am a B.J. Upton apologist, but that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop anytime soon.

2011 Fantasy Projection

.254 | 92 R | 21 HR | 63 RBI | 45 SB


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Top 30 Catchers

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Top 30 Shortstops 

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2011 Chicago Cubs: 5 Big Questions and Preview

We here at Baseball Professor think about our readers first and ourselves secondalbeit a close second. That’s why we decided to reach out to other bloggers (who follow their respective teams more closely than we do) to give you a deeper look into the important issues every fantasy owner has to come to grips with this season.

Our second installment is with the Chicago Cubs and comes courtesy of Joe Aiello from View from the Bleachers.

Be sure to also check out our 2011 Tampa Bay Rays Q&A.


1) In the minors, Starlin Castro averaged nearly 26 stolen bases per 500 at-bats, but he stole just 10 bases for the Cubs in 463 at-bats last season. Why the lack of steals and can we expect him to run more this year?

If you’ve paid close attention to the Cubs, you’ll notice that they never seem to have a guy that racks up a lot of steals. It’s rare to see them with someone among the league leaders in that category. Juan Pierre in 2006 was one of the last times I can remember a Cubs player stealing a lot of bases.

I don’t see that changing much with Castro. He’s still a very young player that will probably still be lower in the lineup to keep the pressure off him. That doesn’t typically lend itself to steals. I’d set the over/under at 15 for Starlin in 2011.


2) Carlos Zambrano is coming off one of the craziest up and down seasons of any pitcher in recent memory. After posting a 5.66 ERA over 55.2 innings from April through June, Zambrano was sent to anger management and returned to the team in August, finishing the year 8-0 with a 1.60 ERA over 73.1 innings. What do you project from Zambrano in 2011?

I’ve kept no secrets when it comes to my genuine dislike of Zambrano. I hate his attitude on the mound and I hate his childish ways. I’m sick of saying things like, “He’s got all the talent in the world and this is the year he puts it all together to win the Cy Young.” He’s a low end No. 2 starter at best.

More than likely, he’ll be the third best guy on this staff behind Ryan Dempster and Matt Garza. I’d like to believe that the second half of 2010 was the real Zambrano, but I’ve been burned too many times before. You know the saying: “Fool me seven times, shame on you. Fool me eight, shame on me.”


3) The Cubs’ outfield is pretty crowded with Alfonso Soriano, Kosuke Fukudome, Marlon Byrd and Tyler Colvin all fighting for at-bats. How do you see the at-bats getting distributed between these four hitters?

Byrd and Soriano both have their spots locked up unless some sort of injury occurs. The question then comes down to Fukudome and Colvin.

On paper, Fukudome was the better outfielder, but most fans would rather have Colvin in there due to potential. I’m a Colvin guy, but I think his bat has holes that need to be filled before he can really be considered a better option than Fukudome. Combine that with Fukudome’s career OPS+ of 157 in the month of April and it’s hard to justify Colvin getting the job on opening day.

In the end, I think he’ll overtake Fukudome, but it may not be until mid-May or later. Proceed at your own risk with those two.


4) Aramis Ramirez missed a little over a month with a bad shoulder last year and while he still managed to hit 25 home runs, he only batted .241his lowest batting average since 2002. Can we expect him to return to his normal self and hit close to 30 home runs with a .300 batting average?

.300 is a pretty lofty goal at this point. I’d shoot closer to .290. It’s not a big difference, but if you’re playing in a Roto league, there are a lot more guys hitting .290 than .300. That would make him less valuable.

I believe, despite the fact that Ramirez denies it, that a big reason for his struggle last year was not his shoulder, but his hand. Things weren’t right for him with that hand all year and I truly believe that affected his play in the beginning of the year. Lack of confidence at the plate set in and the end result was a very disappointing year for Rammy. I still believe he can be the best player in this lineup. Now he needs to prove it.


5) Outfielder Brett Jackson is widely recognized as the Cubs’ best prospect, but his path to the Majors is currently blocked by Soriano, Byrd, Fukudome and Colvin. Are there any other prospects in the organization that could see playing time this season and make an immediate impact?

Jackson will probably not make an impact with the big club this year. I look to 2012 to be the year he gets in there. That said, I’m a big Jay Jackson fan. I think he’s got the stuff to slot into either the rotation, or the bullpen if needed. He’s ready for the Majors at this time. It’s just a matter of when the other 15 starters in front of him get hurt.


Make Baseball Professor, the most personable fantasy baseball outlet on the web, part of your daily fantasy baseball routine for updated fantasy news and analysis. Follow us on Facebook and  Twitter to stay updated throughout the season.

For more fantasy baseball content, check out our 2011 fantasy rankings:

Top 30 Catchers

Top 30 First Basemen

Top 30 Second Basemen

Top 30 Third Basemen

Top 30 Shortstops 

Top 60 Outfielders

Top 60 Starting Pitchers

Top 30 Relief Pitchers

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Gordon Beckham: 2011 Fantasy Sleeper

It was a tale of two halves last season for Chicago’s Gordon Beckham.

Last year, Beckham was coming off a very successful rookie season where he batted .270 with 14 home runs, 63 RBI and seven stolen bases in just 103 games. He was barely 23 years old and he was already knocking on the doors of top 50 status if you stretched his stats over a full season. You can imagine how excited we all were come draft day in 2010—I targeted, and drafted, him with my first selection (sixth round) in my keeper league despite already having Ian Kinsler as one of my five keepers. Boy, did I regret that decision.

To say Beckham started off 2010 slowly would be the understatement of the decade. In April, he hit just .235 with five extra-base hits (one HR) and just four RBI over 81 at-bats. He went on to hit just .159 in May and posted more strikeouts (19) than hits (13). June came and went while Beckham continued to struggle. His batting average improved a bit (.233), but his 17:2 K:BB ratio showed he was still lost at the plate. All of this added up to a .216 batting average with 35 runs, three home runs, 22 RBI and four steals in 273 at-bats prior to the All-Star break.

However, Beckham spent those three days off, it worked as he came back a completely different hitter in the second half.

Over the next two months, Beckham roared back on the scene with a .331 batting average that even Ichiro Suzuki would be proud of. Beckham’s power also returned as he hit seven home runs and added on 13 doubles and one triple. In September, he battled hand issues and only amassed 32 at-bats, batting just .188 to close out the season.

This offseason, Beckham is saying a doing all of the right things. He has reportedly added 10-15 pounds of muscle and White Sox manager Ozzie Guillen has said that Beckham will bat second. This would be a huge boost to his value after spending most of 2010 shuffling around the bottom of the order. At the top of the White Sox lineup you can expect more runs out of the third-year player and quite possible more stolen bases.

What 2010 did to Beckham was make him a low-risk, high-reward player and someone fantasy owners should target in the middle rounds of drafts. If you haven’t heard of the term post-hype sleeper, it’s time you become familiar with it because Beckham is just that.

2011 Fantasy Projection

.283 AVG | 89 R | 18 HR | 65 RBI | 10 SB


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MLB Debate Team: Miguel Cabrera Vs. Joey Votto

For 10 consecutive seasons, fantasy baseball has had Albert Pujols dominate the first base position like no one else. However over the last couple of years, 27-year-old Miguel Cabrera has earned himself “Pujols-lite” status as he has gained the reputation of a high-average hitter with 35-home run power. Well, it’s time to welcome another 27-year-old to the discussion. Joey Votto has catapulted himself to the first round after a monster 2010 season and it’s between him and Cabrera on who will take over when Pujols inevitably breaks down in his mid-30s. Chris and I discuss who should get drafted first.

Chris: If there is one player that most closely resembles Pujols it’s Cabrera. In fact, he has a batting average of .326 over the past two years, which is better than Pujols’s batting average of .319 over that same time span. Since Cabrera made the move from Florida to Detroit three years ago he has averaged 97 R, 36 HR and 119 RBI to go along with a .314 batting average. The scary thing about Cabrera is that he’s still just 27 years old and is about to reach his prime in terms of power. He is already the second-best first baseman in fantasy and hasn’t fully reached his power potential. As a result he is a sure-fire top three pick and anchor to your fantasy team.


George: Chris, you mention that Cabrera and Pujols are very close in comparison, but the one major difference between the two is stolen bases. Last season, Votto swiped 16 bases, which lead all first basemen, and was two more than Pujols. How many bases did Cabrera steal? Three. Votto is on par with Cabrera in every other category (.324 BA, 106 R, 37 HR, 113 RBI) as they are both batters who can hit for power and a high average, but it’s clear that Votto has the advantage in the speed category. If he has another successful season in 2011 we might be calling him the heir to Pujols’ throne rather than Cabrera.


Chris: You’re right that Votto stole more bases than Cabrera last year, however I’m not entirely convinced that Votto will become a perennial 15+ base-stealer. After all, he stole only four bases in 2009 and seven bases in 2008. You also mention that Votto is on par with Cabrera in BA, R, HR and RBI. But you don’t mention that he was only on par last year. Between 2008 and 2009, Votto averaged 76 R, 25 HR, 84 RBI and six SB to go along with a .309 average. In those same two years Cabrera batted .308 and averaged 91 R, 36 HR, 115 RBI.

And oh by the way since Cabrera and Votto are both 27 years old, they were the same age in 2008 and 2009. As you can see, the difference between Cabrera and Votto is consistency. Votto has only had one great year whereas Cabrera has been consistently great since 2004. Cabrera has also averaged 158 games since ’04 while Votto has only averaged 144 games in his three big league seasons.


George: Both sluggers might be the same age, but by 2008 (Votto’s rookie year) Cabrera had already played in four full seasons. Votto has struggled with depression and anxiety issues in the past, but has still put up career averages of .314 BA, 89 R, 30 HR, 90 RBI and nine SB.  It’s often said that players don’t fully take off until their third season and if Votto’s 2010 was any indication of what he will bring in future seasons, there is no reason why he can’t be taken ahead of Cabrera in drafts.

As for the steals, it’s impossible to predict if he will repeat his 16-steal performance, but he did steal 24 bases in 136 Double-A games in 2006 and 17 bases in 133 Triple-A games in 2007. He might not steal 16 bases every year, but it’s not crazy to think he will be in the double digits.


Chris: I agree that Votto is a threat to steal double-digit bases but I don’t want to rely on him doing so because that is the only way he outperforms Cabrera next year. I think we can both agree that Cabrera and Votto are worthy of early picks and shouldn’t slip past the beginning of the second round. But to me, the first couple rounds are all about minimizing risk and I believe Cabrera is less of a risk than Votto. Cabrera has consistently put up exceptional numbers year in and year out so you know what to expect from him in 2011.

Votto on the other hand has only had one exceptional year and I do have some reservations about his power totals that year. In 2010 his HR/FB ratio of 25 percent was the highest in the league. The next closest was Jose Baustista and his 54 home runs at 21.7 percent. While 25 percent isn’t a totally fluky number, it is considering that Votto’s previous high HR/FB ratio was 18.5 percent. Before even thinking about taking Votto over an established stud like Cabrera, I need to see more than one great year from him.


George: It’s true that there aren’t many players as consistent as Cabrera. While Votto may join that crowd in a couple of years, he hasn’t been around long enough to gain that type of respect from fantasy owners. However, in his three years of professional ball, Votto has steadily increased his ISO (.209 to .276) and his walk percentage (10 percent to 14 percent). He has done all this while maintaining a steady strikeout rate (~21 percent) and line-drive rate (~23 percent). He has shown no reasons for us to doubt that he can continue to produce at an elite level.

With a lineup that includes Jay BruceDrew Stubbs and Brandon Phillips it shouldn’t be hard for Votto combine for 200+ R/RBI with similar power numbers. If you feel like “rolling the dice” with Votto, draft him ahead of Cabrera and gain that extra edge in steals in your league. Remember, only three first basemen (Votto, Pujols and James Loney) stole at least 10 bases in 2010.


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Debate Team: Hanley Ramirez vs. Troy Tulowitzki

In our first debate, we take a look at the top two shortstops in fantasy baseball as both should be top 10 picks. However, Troy Tulowitzki’s strong finish in 2010 has struck a lot of discussion on whether the 26-year-old should dethrone perennial top-two selection Hanley Ramirez. Bryan and I discuss who you should draft first.

Bryan: Last season, Ramirez had an ADP of 2.4 in ESPN leagues. He was coming off a great 2009 season in which he batted .342/.410/.543 with 24 homers and 23 steals. Florida had finally bumped him back to third in the lineup, and he rewarded the Marlins with 106 RBI. We all expected more of the same in 2010, but Ramirez disappointed with sub-par RBI production. All players, except Albert Pujols, of course, hit speed bumps in their professional careers, and if 2010 is Ramirez’s speed bump—and his career numbers show us no reason to think it was anything other than that—then the most electric shortstop in the game will be the best fantasy option at the position once again.

George: While it’s clear that these two are tops among shortstops, Tulowitzki has one big advantage over his counterpart—home field. In his six-year career, Tulowitzki has batted .312/.383/.544 at Coors Field, and his home/road power splits (.213 ISO/.179 ISO) show that he hits for power no matter where he plays. In a year where a lot of hitters disappointed, Tulowitzki actually exceeded expectation despite missing a month with a broken wrist. And now that he is staying in Colorado through the 2020 season, he should continue to meet them for years to come.

Bryan: I’m with you on one point, George. If you’re fortunate enough to have one of these two shortstops on your roster, you already have a significant advantage over the rest of your league. No other position offers such a gap between the elite and the near-elite, and no matter how much you love Jose Reyes, Alexei Ramirez, Derek Jeter or any other shortstop, you’d be lying if you said anyone else was even in Hanley and Tulo’s class. However, with Tulowitzki’s spotty injury history (122 games last year and just 102 in 2008), I consider it far too big of a risk to go with one of baseball’s newest $100 million men. Give me Ramirez’s average 152 games per season every time.

George: Take a quick look at Tulo’s injury history and you’ll realize that they are fluke injuries that have no ill-effect on how he presently plays. In 2008, he had his worst offensive season as a pro while missing 42 games with a torn tendon in his left quadriceps and then 16 days after he gashed his hand open on a broken bat. He showed no lingering issues in 2009, where he enjoyed his best offensive season. Last year, Tulo fractured his wrist and missed 33 games, but after about a month his power returned and he hit 14 home runs in September. It’s safe to say that Tulo has no lingering injury issues that owners need to worry about come draft day.

Bryan: To say Tulo has no lingering injury issues might be a stretch, but point taken. Still, if consistency is your thing, you’ll be hard-pressed to find more consistently great numbers those put up by Ramirez. In 2007, 2008 and 2009 he had OPSs of .948, .940 and .953, respectively, he’s stolen between 27 and 35 bases in each of the last three seasons, he’s batted at least .300 in four straight seasons, his K:BB ratio has remained stable and his strikeout rate in 2010 was the lowest its been since 2007. Tulo’s torrid September makes him the better choice if you subscribe to the “What have you done for me lately?” school of thought, but I’m a proponent of “What have you consistently done for me over the last few seasons since you’re just entering your prime?” It would probably be more popular if it had a better name.

George: If it’s the last couple of seasons you want to look at, then we can talk about Ramirez’s declining ISO (from .239 to .175) over the last three years. When it comes to shortstops, power is where these two players really separate themselves from the rest of the group as only four hit more than 20 home runs last season. The only season Ramirez hit over 30 home runs, his 19.2 HR/FB percent was much higher than his career average (13.4 percent), which suggests that he was lucky. If Ramirez’s power doesn’t return to a near-30 form, there is no major difference between him and Tulowitzki. I would rather take the player who excels more in home runs, rather than the one who will win out in steals. Also, in keeper leagues it should be noted that while Tulo is a perennial gold glove threat at shortstop, Ramirez is an average fielder at best and could be moved to the outfield and lose his position eligibility.

Check out our 2011 Fantasy Baseball Rankings:

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