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ESPN Previews 2010, So I Will Too!

By: Bryan Curley (Email)

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.

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About the author: Bryan is the co-founder of Baseball Professor and works as a consultant specializing in operational metrics and efficiency analysis. When he’s not working, blogging, or tending to basic human needs, he enjoys pondering the vastness of the universe, rewatching episodes of Breaking Bad, and avoiding snakes. (@BaseballProf)

Comments on this entry are closed.

  • FenwayPunk

    With everyone’s attention on NYY and Boston, (as usual) the Rays have a really good chance to trump both of them, again. We’re talking about a team with one of the best looking rotations in baseball, a run producing line-up, and finally a closer to get to the ball to in Soriano. I hate to say it, but Tampa should be right in the thick of things, and it’s for that reason that Evan Longoria and his 40+ HR will take AL MVP honors.

  • Bryan Curley

    I really like what Tampa Bay has built over the last few seasons. They’ve done it the right way, acquiring players through the draft and trades, and not signing high priced talent that they obviously cannot afford.

    You have to like their core on offense with Longoria, Pena, Crawford, and Zobrist. Upton is a perennial disappointment and can only be expected to be a rangy defender and a speedster on the bases. Bartlett cannot be expected to repeat what he did last season, although he should be better than the years prior, and their lineup doesn’t really have a ton of holes, mainly guys who hit for low average but good power. Nothing wrong with that.

    The rotation is filled with cheap, young talent, and if the players develop as expected they could be quite formidable. The addition of a legitimate closer in Soriano doesn’t hurt either.

    Unfortunately, all of that translates into a 3rd place finish once again. The Red Sox became a potentially elite defensive club with Gold Glovers at 3 of the 4 IF positions and two of the best fielding OF in baseball (Cameron, Ellsbury). Plus they have John Lackey to add to a rotation that features studs like Beckett and Lester, an upcoming young pitcher in Buchholz, and the return of Daisuke (who can’t be any worse than last year). Plus, they have one of the three best closers in baseball, and some of the best setup men in front of him.

    The Yankees went out and got Granderson to bat 7th! And they added Javier Vazquez, one of the four best NL pitchers last year to be their fourth guy.

    In short, Tampa is good and getting better, but the Red Sox and Yankees are too far ahead.

    One thing bodes well for Longoria’s MVP candidacy: if they do make the playoffs he probably had ahuge hand in it.

  • FenwayPunk

    PS: you are one silly rabbit if you draw first pick and don’t take Pujols, regardless of the position scarcity arguement. What about “HR/RBI/AVG/Run-producing uber-god scarcity?” Albert’s in a class all by himself, and just because you may feel like a smarty smart pants by taking Hanley and then chirping about postition scarcity, you would really be quite the opposite.

  • Bryan Curley

    If you take Pujols first and are lucky enough to get Tulowitzki with your second pick then I’m all for it. I would rather get Hanley first, and with my second pick get an elite SP or OF, and then get my 1B (like Adrian/Morneau/Youk) in the 4th round. All three of them won’t be available there, but at least one of them will be.

    Plus, Pujols is godly, but his numbers last season were far more than he did in the previous 2 seasons. If he produces like that again, then yeah, he’s the clear-cut choice, but who’s to say he won’t revert to the 2007 and 2008 version, and if he does, you’re choosing a 1B who may be the best at his position, but isn’t THAT much better than everyone else.

    We know that there are only about 4 or 5 really good SS, and of them all Hanley is clearly the best. It all comes down to how you like to manage your team, but I choose to be elite at the scarcest positions.

    You can’t be wrong picking Pujols or Hanley first, but it’s how to plan the rest of your draft so that you maximize each and every position.

  • tristian

    question: if someone had last pick in a 12-team mixed league, what shortstop would you recommend? my pick is asdrubal cabrera

  • Bryan Curley

    Hey Tristian. I’m not sure if I understand your question? When you say last pick I assume you mean 12th overall, but clearly Cabrera isn’t a guy to be drafting anywhere near the first few rounds so I know you don’t mean that. Just looking for a little clarification.