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ESPN’s 2010 Preview, Part 2

By: Bryan Curley (Email)

The other day, ESPN released some of their fantasy experts’ predictions for 2010. We recapped a few of these projections in Part 1 of this mini-series, and today we pick it back up with Part 2.

The AL Cy Young

Matthew Berry: Felix Hernandez
Eric Karabell: Jon Lester
Christopher Harris: Jon Lester
Jason Grey: Felix Hernandez
Pierre Becquey: Justin Verlander
A.J. Mass: Felix Hernandez
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Felix Hernandez

My Take: If you remember from my article on Who Will Be the Next Zack Greinke, Jon Lester is one of my favorite candidates. Verlander also cracked the list of pitchers poised for a Cy Young season since both of them had two of the three necessary conditions for breakout status: H/9 below 8.0, BB/9 below 3.0, and K/9 above 6.0. The man who garnered the most expert votes, Felix Hernandez, actually accomplished all three last season. After breaking into the majors at only 18 years of age, Hernandez has finally become the ace everyone expected. While Lester is a great candidate on a very good team, there are lots of other SP on that squad that could steal the show. It’s tough to imagine Greinke will be able to repeat his unbelievable performance, and with Halladay out of the AL, the stiffest competition is gone. Sabathia and Verlander both have a good shot, but I’m going with Hernandez.

The NL Cy Young

Matthew Berry: Tim Lincecum
Eric Karabell: Roy Halladay
Christopher Harris: Tim Lincecum
Jason Grey: Tim Lincecum
Pierre Becquey: Johan Santana
A.J. Mass: Matt Cain
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Tim Lincecum

My Take: Cockcroft also nominated Tommy Hanson as his dark-horse candidate, which means a total of five names were thrown into the pool by seven experts. Lincecum has won two in a row, Halladay won one back in 2003, and Santana has two himself (’04 and ’06) as well as three other top-five finishes. Throw into the mix Matt Cain, who had a career year in 2009, and Hanson, who ignored the usual rookie struggles, and you have a pretty wide open NL Cy Young race. Oh, and don’t forget about Brandon Webb, owner of a sparkling 3.27 career ERA, one Cy Young award (2006), and two second-place finishes. And in case you didn’t notice, his teammate, Dan Haren, is pretty good himself. That list doesn’t even begin to touch upon the handful of potential surprise pitchers (like Yovani Gallardo) who could suddenly put everything together. So how are we supposed to pick a Cy Young winner from a pool this large? It’s tough, but I’m going with Roy Halladay. He’s always been a ground ball pitcher with a career-worst GB:FB ratio of 1.71 (2009), so a move to Citizen Bank Park shouldn’t affect him too much, and facing NL lineups will only make him that much more devastating.

The AL Rookie of the Year

Matthew Berry: Scott Sizemore (DET)
Eric Karabell: Carlos Santana (CLE)
Christopher Harris: Austin Jackson (DET)
Jason Grey: Scott Sizemore (DET)
Pierre Becquey: Brett Wallace (TOR)
A.J. Mass: Desmond Jennings (TB)
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Brian Matusz (BAL)

My Take: Rookie of the Year is always the toughest to pick, and with Opening Day still over three months away a lot can change. We’ll throw a bunch of names at the wall and see what sticks since playing time is clearly the most crucial factor. As far as Scott Sizemore goes, Tigers’ GM, Dave Dombrowski, has already said, “We expect him to be our second baseman. We have not changed on Sizemore.” Another Tiger, Austin Jackson, is already slated to be getting the start on Opening Day as well. Carlos Santana can hit, but there’s a lot of people vying for that starting role in Cleveland. Brett Wallace is the newest Blue Jay, but playing time there is going to be tough to come by, and from everything I have heard, Jays’ manager Cito Gaston likes to stick with his veterans. Like Wallace and Santana, Desmond Jennings may find playing time hard to come by early on, so I’d rather pick a player who already has a good shot at a starting job. Brian Matusz is an interesting pick, and I’ll throw in his teammate, Chris Tillman, too. Of all the players mentioned here, though, I like Scott Sizemore’s chances the most. He already has the starting job (or so it seems), and he was nearly a 20/20 player in the minors last season, batting .303 with 17 HR, 66 RBI, and 21 SB. They felt comfortable enough to part with Polanco and haven’t made a run at Orlando Hudson, so I’m going to show as much confidence in Sizemore as they have.

The NL Rookie of the Year

Matthew Berry: Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Eric Karabell: Buster Posey (SF)
Christopher Harris: Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Jason Grey: Buster Posey (SF)
Pierre Becquey: Jason Heyward (ATL)
A.J. Mass:  Stephen Strasburg (WAS)
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Jason Heyward (ATL)

My Take: It sure seems as if there will be a lot more high-end rookie talent on display in the National League in 2010. The Giants are letting Bengie Molina go so they can hand the pitching staff over to 23-year old Buster Posey, the Braves will do whatever they can to give Jason Heyward every chance to win a starting OF job, and you all know the tale of the stupendous Stephen Strasburg. In truth, any of that trio could not only win Rookie of the Year, but they could become fantasy superstars by season’s end. Who is my pick to win the award, though? Mr. Jason Heyward. He has been touted as the next Ken Griffey Jr., and even if that is a bit much, consider his minor league resume: .318/.391/.508 with 164 R, 29 HR, 125 RBI, 26 SB and a solid 138:105 K:BB ratio in 1003 PA. Oh, and he’s only 20 years old! The kid is going to be a superstar, and I think it starts immediately.

The Fantasy Baseball MVP (best value for draft position)

Matthew Berry: Erik Bedard
Eric Karabell: Matt Wieters
Christopher Harris: Tommy Hanson
Jason Grey: Wade Davis
Pierre Becquey: Jason Heyward
A.J. Mass: Nyjer Morgan
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Jay Bruce

My Take: Whichever player wins this award, we can be sure he is one of three things: a guy finally realizing his immense potential (think Kendry Morales), a guy who has an inexplicably good season (think Ben Zobrist), or a guy coming back from injury (think Victor Martinez). All of the above selections have definite merit and as you will realize in coming weeks, I am a HUGE Matt Wieters fan (call me crazy, but I’m keeping him in my 10-team, 5-player keeper league). In the interest of throwing out a few more names, consider Brandon Webb and Diasuke Matsuzaka. According to Mock Draft Central, Webb was taken in the 11th round and Matsuzaka in the 12th round. Let’s not forget how fantastic Webb was in the years prior to last season. Earlier today, Rotoworld.com released a quote from Webb: “I’m hoping to go in and have a normal spring training. If we don’t make the playoffs and I’m not a Cy Young candidate, I’ll be disappointed.” As for Matsuzaka, he had a 18 W, a 2.90 ERA, and 8.3 K/9 in 2008 before the World Baseball Classic affected his conditioning regimen in ’09. He’s back and ready to go. As for hitters, Wieters was mentioned, but I also like Ian Stewart a lot. He had a 92/.313/30/101/19 season back in the minors (2004) and with Garrett Atkins gone, he will finally get the full-time job. Since he’s going in the 12th round, I think it’s a pretty good risk to take. One other guy to make note of is Corey Hart. He had back-to-back 20/20 seasons in ’07 and ’08, but since the All-Star Break in 2008 he has been pretty disappointing. With a draft position in the 160s on Mock Draft Central, here’s to hoping he puts it all together again.

The Highest Rated Player on Player Rater (ESPN has their system, but we like what we’ve done with PSR)

Matthew Berry: Hanley Ramirez
Eric Karabell: Tim Lincecum
Christopher Harris: Albert Pujols
Jason Grey: Albert Pujols
Pierre Becquey: Albert Pujols
A.J. Mass: Albert Pujols
Tristan H. Cockcroft: Albert Pujols

My Take: Pujols will be the highest rated player if position scarcity isn’t factored in. No one does what he does as well as he does, so according to ESPN’s formula, it will be Pujols. According to our formula, which of course does factor in position scarcity (I mean how can you not?) it will be Hanley Ramirez. And don’t give me any of that “Joe Mauer is awesome!” crap. He’s good, but not on Hanley’s level.

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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)

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  • FenwayPark

    The real question with Buster Posey is if his hometown chant follows him to San Fransico: ” Hail to the Buster, the Buster, the Buster… Hail to the Buster, the Buster Posey!!! ”
    That chant was said everytime Posey got on base in FSU!