ESPN released some 2010 predictions for both football and baseball today, and I’ve been reading them over for a little while. I thought this would be a good time to get the conversation going between the self-proclaimed “Worldwide Leader In Sports,” Baseball Professor, and everyone else who wants to get involved. So what did ESPN’s crew of experts have to say?
Second Player Taken In Fantasy Leagues
Matthew Berry: Hanley Ramirez
Eric Karabell: Hanley Ramirez
Christopher Harris: Hanley Ramirez
Jason Grey: Hanley Ramirez
My Take: This question obviously assumes that Albert Pujols is going first overall, but is that really set in stone? Taking into account position scarcity, if Hanley and Albert put up seasons identical to their 2009s, then yes, Pujols should go first, but that is far from easy. Pujols’ 47 HR last season were the second-most of his career, and in ’07 and ’08 he hit only 32 and 37, respectively. We all know that ’03 through ’06 Pujols was legendary, with 2005 his worst season of the four in each of the three major categories (.330/41/117), but is that the Pujols you are sure to get? Hanley Ramirez is three years younger, has already been a 30/30 player, plays at a much scarcer position, hits for the same average as Pujols, and scores as many runs. Breaking it down by category, they tie average, tie runs, Albert wins HR and RBI, Hanley wins SB and plays at a weaker position. In all honesty, you can’t go wrong with either one, but I would probably take Hanley first since I am a huge proponent of position scarcity.
The First Starting Pitcher
Matthew Berry: Tim Lincecum
Eric Karabell: Tim Lincecum
Christopher Harris: Tim Lincecum
Jason Grey: Tim Lincecum
My Take: You could try to argue a few other guys, possibly Halladay or Sabathia, but I don’t think anyone is going to listen. No other pitcher can strikeout that many people and keep an ERA that low. And he does get a good amount of wins, too. And he pitches in the National League. It’s Lincecum number one.
The First Closer
Matthew Berry: Someone way too early for me to even care who it is
Eric Karabell: Mariano Rivera
Christopher Harris: Jonathan Papelbon
Jason Grey: Jonathan Papelbon
My Take: I’ll preface this by saying that Berry is exactly right. There is zero need to draft a closer in the rounds where the first few will go (probably fifth through eighth). Last year, neither of the two teams competing for the championship in my 10-team league drafted a single closer until the 17th round. Who did he and I end up getting that late? How about Brian Wilson, Chad Qualls, Heath Bell, Frank Francisco, and George Sherrill. When Sherrill was about to be traded, I got Jim Johnson, and then he became the closer. I also traded my fourth OF (Alex Rios) and a mediocre SP (Jonathan Sanchez) for Joe Nathan mid-season when someone else decided they were going to punt saves. Why pay for saves? If you are diligent enough, you can draft closers in late rounds that will get saves, then add a few more off free agency or through trades. Instead of getting Rivera or Papelbon in round six, get a real pitcher like Matt Cain, Wandy Rodriguez, or Clayton Kershaw who has more trade value and who’s production can’t as easily be replaced. But if I had to pick someone it would be Rivera.
The Second Catcher
Matthew Berry: Victor Martinez
Eric Karabell: Victor Martinez
Christopher Harris: Brian McCann
Jason Grey: Victor Martinez
My Take: On Opening Day, Brian McCann will be 26-years old. He has caught between 138 and 145 games each of the last three seasons, and before injuries slowed him last year, he was a top-two catcher. Victor Martinez is 31-years old and had serious injury concerns entering 2009. Despite those shortcomings, Martinez is the guy you want. He played 155 games last season and figures to get as much time this year because he plays in the American League and will be rotated through catcher, first base, and DH as the Red Sox try to get him as many AB as possible. He also has a little more protection in the lineup. In his last four healthy seasons, he has never batted under .300, and he’s drive in 100+ runs in his last two. McCann is much more erratic with batting averages ranging from the .270s to the .300s and has a career high of 94 RBI (2009). You can’t go wrong with either one, but I’ll take Martinez.
The AL MVP
Matthew Berry: Alex Rodriguez
Eric Karabell: Alex Rodriguez
Christopher Harris: Mark Teixeira
Jason Grey: Joe Mauer
My Take: New York and Boston won’t have anyone win the MVP because they have too many similar candidates each that will steal votes from each other (Rodriguez, Teixeira, Jeter in New York and Youkilis, Pedroia, Martinez in Boston). That leaves only a few teams that could have a player win the MVP: LA Angels, Rangers, Mariners, Twins, and Tigers. Of those teams, the best candidates are Kendry Morales, Ian Kinsler, Josh Hamilton, Ichiro Suzuki, Miguel Cabrera, Joe Mauer, and Justin Morneau. Whichever teams win the West and Central will probably have their players garner the most consideration, and if the Twins win the Central, then Mauer and Morneau will probably steal votes from each other. This means the only remaining candidates are Morales, Kinsler, Hamilton, Ichiro, and Cabrera. I still like the Twins and Angels to win their divisions, which means I’m going out on a limb. Kendry Morales, last year’s fifth place finisher, is my pick to win the AL MVP.
The NL MVP
Matthew Berry: Albert Pujols
Eric Karabell: Justin Upton
Christopher Harris: Albert Pujols
Jason Grey: Albert Pujols
My Take: Let’s use the same logic we did for the AL MVP to pick the NL winner. Unlike in the AL, there isn’t a team that has so much high-end talent that they can’t have player’s steal votes from each other. That means our contending teams are the Phillies, Marlins, Cardinals, Brewers, Cubs, Dodgers, Giants, Rockies, and Diamondbacks. That means possible candidates are Ryan Howard, Jimmy Rollins, Chase Utley, Hanley Ramirez, Albert Pujols, Prince Fielder, Derrek Lee, Aramis Ramirez, Manny Ramirez, Matt Kemp, Pablo Sandoval, Troy Tulowitzki, Mark Reynolds, and Justin Upton. Of those 14, Lee, Aramis Ramirez, and Sandoval probably are not real contenders, and the winner will probably come from a playoff team. As of right now, my projected playoff teams are the Phillies, Cardinals, Dodgers, and Diamondbacks, meaning we have narrowed the field down to eight. If any team has players stealing votes, it’s the Phillies, so I won’t pick any of them. That leaves Manny, Kemp, Pujols, Upton, and Reynolds. Sadly, after going through all of this, how can I not pick Sir Albert.
The experts keep it rolling with their Cy Young, Rookie of the Year, and some other types of questions, but I don’t want to overwhelm you so we’ll save some more of that for tomorrow.