Fantasy Clicks
BY JAY CLEMONS
The Grand Introduction
Andrew McCutchen: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

We're going to mix things up a bit for today's baseball Clicks. In addition to the regular Friday staples involving pitching FYIs and Accuscore projections, we'll examine the checkered history of the Pittsburgh Pirates since 1992 (the franchise's last winning season), compare Stephen Strasburg's trade marketability against four established fantasy pitchers ... and shed some humorous light on the most ridiculous players vs. local media scandal to rock the major leagues in decades.

Less Bang For Your Bucs, Vol. I

A few weeks ago, Pardon The Interruption co-host Tony Kornheiser -- ESPN's lovable lightning-rod of controversy -- made some innocuous comment about how Major League Baseball's Commissoner's Office should assume control of the Pittsburgh Pirates, who've been floundering as a franchise since 1993 and seemingly hold no hope of becoming respectable anytime soon. Yes, Kornheiser's comments were probably a knee-jerk reaction to Pittsburgh's 20-0 home loss to Milwaukee on April 22 ... but, on a larger scale, was he correct in asserting the Pirates are a hopeless cause in today's marketplace?

In the next three Friday Clicks, we'll examine different aspects of the Pirates to determine if Kornheiser has a legitimate gripe ... or if he should be giving Pittsburgh more time to execute its 20-year plan of getting back to respectability:

The Draft
**From 1993-2005, the Pirates selected 11 of 68 decent or better players in the first five rounds of the annual amateur draft. Of that 11, it breaks down to one likely superstar (Andrew McCutchen), one potential All-Star catcher (Ryan Doumit), one talented but passed-over prospect (Neil Walker), three good starting pitchers (Kris Benson, Bronson Arroyo, Chris Young), four decent arms (John Grabow, Paul Maholm, Tom Gorzelanny, Jeremy Guthrie) and one respectable infielder (Jeff Keppinger). Now, bear in mind, solid players like Nate McLouth, Ian Snell, Zach Duke and Matt Capps were taken in the latter rounds; but the majority of baseball building blocks tend to come from the draft's first five rounds.

**In that 13-year window, the Pirates had the draft's No. 1 overall pick twice, taking pitcher Kris Benson in 1996 and Bryan Bullington in 2002. While it's true Benson's MLB career (70-75 in 11 seasons) was more about injuries and the sexpolits of his underwear-model wife, Anna Benson, he was actually the best option of all the Round 1 picks from that year. In fact, it's safe to say the '96 draft was probably baseball's worst in the last 30 years. As for the 2002 draft, I distinctly recall the Pirates dragging their feet on whether to take a high-upside prepster (B.J. Upton) or go with the "safer" college pick, Ball State's Bullington. Well, as history shows, the Buccos swung and missed with Bullington (0-5 lifetime record), while future studs like Upton, Zack Greinke, Prince Fielder, Scott Kazmir, Cole Hamels, James Loney, Denard Span, Jeff Francoeur and Matt Cain nicely filled out the rest of Round 1.

To be fair, we all know the baseball draft is an absolute crapshoot; but now, in hindsight, it seems impossible to believe then-Pirates GM Dave Littlefield once walked into his pre-draft war room to tell his staff, Yes, I know Greinke has a 98-mph fastball, and Fielder once hit a ball out of Tiger Stadium at age 13, and Upton and Francoeur have off-the-charts athleticism and natural power ... but I just can't take my eyes off this kid from Ball State!

**Here's how the NL Central teams rank in the first five rounds of the 1993-2005 drafts:
1. Astros -- 15 of 71 (notables -- Hunter Pence, Brad Lidge, Chad Qualls, Lance Berkman)
2. Cubs -- 15 of 72 (notables -- Mark Prior, Ricky Nolasco, Kerry Wood, Jon Garland)
3. Cardinals -- 15 of 74 (notables -- Dan Haren, J.D. Drew, Matt Morris, Skip Schumaker, Xavier Nady)
4. Pirates -- 11 of 68 (notables -- Andrew McCutchen, Ryan Doumit, Kris Benson, Bronson Arroyo, Paul Maholm)
5. Brewers -- 10 of 67 (notables -- Ryan Braun, Prince Fielder, Ben Sheets, Rickie Weeks, J.J. Hardy)
6. Reds -- 9 of 69 (notables -- Jay Bruce, Joey Votto, Homer Bailey, Brett Tomko, Austin Kearns, Adam Dunn)

**In the 2006-09 drafts, under Littlefield (2006) and current GM Neal Huntington, Pittsburgh has drafted two potential All-Stars (Pedro Alvarez, Brad Lincoln), one more potential pitching ace (Tanner Scheppers, now property of the Rangers) and four potentially dynamic building blocks (Tony Sanchez, Chase d'Arnaud, Daniel Moskos, Victor Black) in the first five rounds. Perhaps even more impressive, the Pirates have traded for three elite prospects (Jose Tabata, Gorkys Hernandez, Tim Alderson) in the last two seasons -- all of which should be local stars in the Steel City for years to come.

Next week, we'll dive more into the Pirates' blockbuster trades and organizational strength from the minor leagues.

WHIP Masters

Here are MLB's best performers in the hallowed WHIP category (min. 19 innings -- thru 5/13):
RP Luke Gregerson, Padres (0.48)
SP Doug Fister, Mariners (0.88)
SP Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (0.90)
SP Tim Lincecum, Giants (0.91)
SP Phil Hughes, Yankees (0.92)
SP Cliff Lee, Mariners (0.94)
RP/SP Tim Stauffer, Padres (0.94)
RP Manuel Corpas, Rockies (0.94)
RP Evan Meek, Pirates (0.95)
SP Dallas Braden, Athletics (0.96)
SP Shaun Marcum, Blue Jays (0.96)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies (0.99)
SP Livan Hernandez, Nationals (0.99)
SP Jason Vargas, Mariners (1.00)
SP Brett Cecil, Blue Jays (1.00)
SP Jeff Niemann, Rays (1.01)
SP/RP John Ely, Dodgers (1.02)
RP Brandon League, Mariners (1.03)
RP Matt Capps, Nationals (1.03)
SP Roy Halladay, Phillies (1.04)
SP Brett Anderson, Athletics (1.04)
SP Zack Greinke, Royals (1.05)
SP Jered Weaver, Angels (1.06)
SP Matt Garza, Rays (1.07)
SP Chris Carpenter, Cardinals (1.07)
SP Ryan Dempster, Cubs (1.07)
SP David Price, Rays (1.07)
SP Jamie Moyer, Phillies (1.08)
SP David Price, Rays (1.08)
RP Clay Hensley, Padres (1.09)
SP/RP Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (1.09)
SP/RP Carlos Villanueva, Brewers (1.09)
SP Ricky Nolasco, Marlins (1.09)
SP C.J. Wilson, Rangers (1.09)
SP Barry Zito, Giants (1.10)

Dare To Compare

In a nod to the classic Pepsi Challenge of 1980s lore, here's a blind ace test for fantasygoers (based on Accuscore projections): Which of the five high-profile starting pitchers would you most prefer from this point forward (May 14-Oct. 1)? And can you guess which projections represent that of rookie Stephen Strasburg?

Player A
Projected stats: 11.2 wins, 3.74 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 111.2 strikeouts

Player B
Projected stats: 11.1 wins, 3.03 ERA, 1.40 WHIP, 108.2 strikeouts

Player C
Projected stats: 10.9 wins, 3.73 ERA, 1.33 WHIP, 108.2 strikeouts

Player D
Projected stats: 13.4 wins, 3.42 ERA, 1.25 WHIP, 99.8 strikeouts

Player E
Projected stats: 14 wins, 3.59 ERA, 1.34 WHIP, 118.1 strikeouts

A -- Brett Anderson, Athletics
B -- Stephen Strasburg, Nationals
C -- Kevin Millwood, Orioles
D -- Jeff Niemann, Rays
E -- Andy Pettitte, Yankees

Earning Their Stripes

One good turn deserves another. Here are MLB's ERA kings (min. 19 innings -- thru 5/12):
RP/SP Tim Stauffer, Padres (0.39)
RP Evan Meek, Pirates (0.82)
RP Matt Capps, Nationals (0.93)
SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies (0.93)
SP Livan Hernandez, Nationals (1.04)
SP/RP Jaime Garcia, Cardinals (1.18)
SP Phil Hughes, Yankees (1.38)
SP Jason Berken, Orioles (1.42)
RP Luke Gregerson, Padres (1.45)
SP C.J. Wilson, Rangers (1.51)
SP Roy Halladay, Phillies (1.59)
SP Wade LeBlanc, Padres (1.61)
SP Brad Penny, Cardinals (1.70)
SP Jon Garland, Padres (1.71)
SP Doug Fister, Mariners (1.71)
RP/SP Tyler Clippard, Nationals (1.80)
RP Brandon League, Mariners (1.86)
SP Tim Lincecum, Giants (1.86)
SP Barry Zito, Giants (1.90)
SP Cliff Lee, Mariners (2.01)
SP David Price, Rays (2.03)
SP Andy Pettitte, Yankees (2.08)
SP Adam Wainwright, Cardinals (2.08)
RP Carlos Monasterios, DOdgers (2.18)
RP Joel Zumaya, Tigers (2.25)
SP John Danks, White Sox (2.25)
SP Jeff Niemann, Rays (2.27)
SP Tommy Hanson, Braves (2.30)
SP Brett Anderson, Athletics (2.35)
SP Francisco Liriano, Twins (2.36)
RP Matt Belisle, Rockies (2.42)
RP Kris Medlen, Braves (2.45)
SP Jered Weaver, Angels (2.47)
SP Matt Garza, Rays (2.49)
SP Zack Greinke, Royals (2.51)
SP Roy Oswalt, Astros (2.63)
SP Tim Hudson, Braves (2.64)
SP Huroki Kuroda, Dodgers (2.66)

The City Of Seattle Deserves Better

Here are some unfiltered thoughts on the Ken Griffey, Jr. naptime ordeal that's been gripping the Pacific Northwest:

**I don't care if Griffey fell asleep in the seventh inning of some random game and was subsequently unavailable to pinch-hit at that time. The man is 41 years old and in his 22nd season of big league baseball. He's a surefire lock for the Hall of Fame precisely five years after the day he retires. That said, does anyone expect him to stay awake for all nine innings of a Seattle game? The Mariners, quite frankly, are the least entertaining team in baseball (rejoice, Nationals fans!) and have absolutely no cachet with someone who was lives in Missouri or Mississippi or Maine or Michigan. (Sorry, Will Chadrow.)

**Can you imagine what would've happened if team officials had simply laughed off The Tacoma News-Tribune's original report -- where two anonymous players revealed that Junior was napping in the clubhouse during a game -- without issuing a lame timeline denial or confirmation? Can you imagine if manager Don Wakamatsu had simply described the matter as an errant communication on his part, and that Griffey just wasn't feeling well that day? You know what would've happened? This whole mess would be over now, and I wouldn't even be mentioning the next bullet point on the list.

**Who died and made Mike Sweeney the pope of chilitown? The power-hitting DH has 26 homers in his last four-plus seasons. He's reached the end of the line on a fruitful career that's never been associated with winning (not entirely his fault). He's been in a Mariners uniform for less than 90 games ... and yet, he reportedly conducted a players-only meeting last week, with the intent of identifying the two deep throats for the Griffey story, before offering to fight them. With all due respect to today's youth (since Sweeney is exactly four weeks younger than yours truly), but I've never heard of a more asinine blowup; and if I was a Mariners star (Felix Hernandez, Ichiro, Chone Figgins, Franklin Gutierrez), I'd be offended by the (Sweeney?) edict of first denying a story that, by all accounts was true, and then having to participate in a poorly planned media freeze-out. Which brings me to my next bullet point.

**Did you hear about pitcher Cliff Lee refusing to address the media until News-Tribune writer Larry LaRue left the premises? This blackballing was so unprofessional, so tasteless, so bush league ... that I suddenly have a newfound respect for George Steinbrenner.

You may recall during the 1999 World Series that NBC reporter Jim Gray awkwardly badgered Pete Rose about his alleged gambling past with baseball -- something Rose would cop to, in full, many years later; and after Game 3 between the Yankees and Braves, centerfielder Chad Curtis took it upon himself to be the Yankees' mouthpiece and declare to Gray -- and a worldwide TV audience -- the club would no longer be speaking to him, based on Gray's improper questioning of Pete Rose, Baseball Martyr. Well, this "boycott" lasted nearly 12 hours ... until King George made it clear to everyone that HIS players would indeed speak to NBC, while privately reducing Curtis's in-house credibility to something less than George Costanza after the infamous body suit incident.

Spinning the story back to the Mariners, as a part-owner or loyal fan, I'd demand to know how Wakamatsu and GM Jack Zduriencik could possibly let a somewhat-embarrassing-and-yet-kinda-funny story disintegrate into a regional disaster? They can't be that dense, right?

First, the NBA's SuperSonics bolt the Pacific Northwest for the cosmopolitan hustle and bustle of Oklahoma City. Then, Matt Hasselbeck suddenly loses his magic touch as one of fantasyland's most underrated quarterbacks. And now, the great city of Seattle must pretend to support a baseball team that's playing at a .382 clip, while offering nothing back in professional courtesy. How sad!

Take This To The Bank

Based on Accuscore's sophisticated statistical evaluations, here are the top 20 projected home run leaders amongst third basemen from this point forward (May 14-Oct. 1):
1. Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks -- 34
2. Evan Longoria, Rays -- 27
3. Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals -- 26.2
4. Alex Rodriguez, Yankees -- 23.7
5. Casey McGehee, Brewers -- 20.3
6. Ian Stewart, Rockies -- 19.2
7. Pablo Sandoval, Giants -- 17.6
8. Brandon Inge, Tigers -- 17.1
9. Jorge Cantu, Marlins -- 16.8
10. Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays -- 15.8
11. Aramis Ramirez, Cubs -- 15.7
12. Michael Young, Rangers -- 15.4
13. Jose Lopez, Mariners -- 15.2
14. Mark DeRosa, Giants -- 14.5
15. David Wright, Mets -- 13.8
16. Scott Rolen, Reds -- 171.4
17. Kevin Kouzmanoff, Athletics -- 170.4
18. Casey Blake, Dodgers -- 169.6
19. Chipper Jones, Braves -- 169.4
20. Placido Polanco, Phillies -- 168.9

Football's Always On The Brain

I just got the word late Thursday night: Rotoworld magazine, headed by the incomparable Gregg Rosenthal, will conduct its annual NFL mock draft on Monday -- with the results going into Rotoworld fantasy-football preview this summer. The timing couldn't be more perfect for two reasons: 1) I'm itching for an experts' mock draft before the Sports Illustrated one on June 1; and 2) I'm pretty much out of material for Wednesday's Clicks. (We're entering the dead period of the NFL ... a time when even the most obsessed, workaholic coaches are jet-skiing or vacationing with their seldom-seen significant others. Come to think of it, I'm due for 4-6 weeks of paid, non-sanitarium leave, too.)

Take This To The Bank, Part II

Here are Accuscore's top 30 projected runs leaders amongst outfielders from this point forward:
1. Ryan Braun, Brewers -- 98.3
2. Johnny Damon, Tigers -- 93.9
3. Austin Jackson, Tigers -- 92.1
4. Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 86.7
5. Jayson Werth, Phillies -- 83.7
6. Denard Span, Twins -- 83.6
7. Shane Victorino, Phillies -- 82.2
8. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates -- 82.0
9. Carl Crawford, Rays -- 81.3
10. Jason Bay, Mets -- 80.6
11. Andre Ethier, Dodgers -- 79.4
12. Raul Ibanez, Phillies -- 79.0
13. Jason Heyward, Braves -- 76.9
14. Justin Upton, Diamondbacks -- 76.6
15. Bobby Abreu, Angels -- 76.4
16. Matt Holliday, Cardinals -- 76.1
17. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies -- 75.7
18. B.J. Upton, Rays -- 73.8
19. Michael Bourn, Astros -- 73.8
20. Nick Swisher, Yankees -- 73.1
21. Michael Cuddyer, Twins -- 72.8
22. Grady Sizemore, Indians -- 72.8
23. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays -- 72.4
24. Drew Stubbs, Reds -- 72.4
25. J.D. Drew, Rays -- 71.7
26. Shin-Soo Choo, Indians -- 71.4
27. Nick Markakis, Orioles -- 71.3
28. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners -- 71.3
29. Torii Hunter, Angels -- 70.5
30. Adam Jones, Orioles -- 70.5

Feeling A Draft In Here?

With MLB's first-year player draft on the horizon, here are the first 20 picks from MyMLBDraft.com's most recent mock draft (updated April 27). You'll notice that Washington has a chance to land two once-in-a-lifetime players in back-to-back seasons -- Stephen Strasburg in 2009 ... and Vegas power-hitting legend Bryce Harper this season:

1. Nationals: C Bryce Harper, Southern Nevada Community College
2. Pirates: P Jameson Taillon, The Woodlands HS (Texas)
3. Orioles: P Drew Pomeranz, Mississippi
4. Royals: P Deck McGuire, Georgia Tech
5. Indians: P Karsten Whitson, Chipley HS (Calif.)
6. Diamondbacks: SS Manny Machado, Brito HS (Fla.)7. Mets: 3B Zack Cox, Arkansas
8. Astros: P Dylan Covey, Maranatha HS (Calif.)
9. Padres: SP Anthony Ranaudo, LSU
10. Athletics: OF Bryce Brentz, Middle Tennessee State
11. Blue Jays: 3B/OF Josh Sale, Blanchet HS (Wash.)
12. Reds: P A.J. Cole, Oviedo HS (Fla.)
13. White Sox: OF Austin Wilson, Harvard-Westlake School (Calif.)
14. Brewers: P Chris Sale, Florida Gulf Coast
15. Rangers: SS/3B Nick Castellanos, Archbishop McCarthy HS (Fla.)
16. Cubs: SS Christian Colon, Cal-State Fullerton
17. Rays: C Yasmani Grandal, Miami
18. Angels: SS/P Kaleb Cowart, Cook County HS (Ga.)
19. Astros: P Brandon Workman, Texas
20. Red Sox: P Matt Harvey, North Carolina

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