Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Baseball: Engage!

Feels almost like we're cheating on David Stern, doesn't it?

Fantasy basketball is, in my estimation, a truly underrated fantasy game.  The majority of folks have their allegiance to football, and I would never call that into question, but I'm just not sure I understand the aversion to NBA.  In any case, it's baseball time, a rotisserie extravaganza!

Baseball's early weeks are very different than those of the basketball season.  With fantasy basketball, your draft is generally only 13 or 14 rounds, but with the microscopic number of relevant players, the last 4 or 5 rounds are pretty much crapshoots.  Such is not the case with baseball.  First, there are usually almost double the number of rounds in the draft, and you have to start significantly more players every week.  The point I'm consciously dodging in this good-for-nothing paragraph is that with basketball, the first few days of the season are CRUCIAL to determining who that mysterious point guard will be in Milwaukee, or who will be securing the rebounds in Portland.  You might have drafted Charlie Bell, but 2 hours later realize you wanted Ramon Sessions (both guards for the Bucks).  In basketball, you'd pick him up!

In baseball, you MUST be more judicious.  Rarely can you tell how valuable a particular mid-range player is going to be from one day, or even one week.  Sure, the Diamondbacks Tony Clark stormed out of the gate, and we're talking about few strokes of the bat like claps of thunder, but only a madman would run out and drop a serviceable first baseman like, say, James Loney, just because Clark looked good on day one.  If you did, and you can still get your old 1B back, now would be a good time to do it.  Then deny it ever happened, and if someone goes to the records, reveal yourself to create a diversion.

So, please, exercise patience!

There are a few players that are in prime position to succeed after the first week and a half.  They have probably already been snapped off waivers (or drafted), but we'll rattle off a quick list that you can check against your league's Free Agents.

Nick Swisher - The Yankees ultimate utility man is batting .458 thus far, with 4 homers, 11 RBI, and 10 runs scored.  Generally, a hot streak like this one is followed by an equally intense cold stretch, and it'll come, but with Xavier Nady likely done for the season, and a host of other Yankees older than dust, Swisher should see consistent playing time.  Even when he evens out, a lineup like the Yanks will provide ample run-scoring opportunities for Swisher to remain valuable, and his ability to play multiple positions should help you when constructing a lineup.

Josh Johnson - Undrafted in BOTH of my leagues.  When I pointed this out in a public forum, my opponents were called "infants," as Johnson is well on his way to becoming one of the best pitchers in baseball.  He's probably gone by now, but if not, sell your soul to get him.

Kevin Millwood - Has been nearly unhittable in what appears to be another in a disastrous year of Rangers pitching.  When the Ballpark at Arlington heats up, though, beware.

Travis Hafner - The poor man's Big Papi, and something of a forgotten man.  Hafner battled shoulder issues for the past year and change, and lost the only thing he had going for him, his power.  Suddenly, it looks like it may be back.  Only eligible for the "Util" spot, Hafner can be a bit of a roster burden, but it's so early in the season, he may prove valuable as a trade chip even if he doesn't fit into your grand scheme.

Emilio Bonifacio - I actually had the pleasure of tracking this speedster when he was in the D'backs farm system.  He appeared to have a nice future as an 8th hitter who could steal some bases, but someone in Florida slipped Emilio some Frosted Mini Wheats.  At the top of the Marlins order, Bonifacio is getting on base HALF THE TIME, and has already scored 11 runs, and swiped 4 bags.  He'll cool off, much like Swisher, but a leadoff hitter will always have some value as a run-scorer.

Armando Galarraga - Two brilliant starts to begin his season has rocketed The New Big Cat up the charts.  Opponents average on balls in play seems a tad on the low side, which lends itself to the assumption that Galarraga will have a few bad starts, but if you're thin on starting pitching, and you can pick your matchups, Armando should fit in your plans just fine.

Again, those guys, because of the timing of this site, are probably taken in most leagues, but I felt ignoring their hot starts would be doing this site, and your teams, a disservice.  Remember, stay patient, don't drop anyone on a whim this early in the season, and keep your eyes peeled for injury news.  I realize it can be difficult to maintain a steady hand when there are so many players available, so I'd like to make a suggestion.  To keep from going mad, use these first few weeks to analyze your team's strengths and weaknesses.

All too often managers just blindly grab the players that look hottest, but if you're already destroying in homers and RBI, perhaps your time would be better spent trying to nab the next run-scorer off waivers.

Tomorrow - a look at one of the most loathed April fantasy players who just might have a season for the ages.


UCSF/Kaiser WHURI said...

congrats on the win!!!

Danno said...

JC - thanks! How's life by the bay?

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