BY DAVID KOMER
Miguel Cabrera: Leon Halip/Getty Images
Miguel Cabrera for AL fantasy MVP. Really.
OK, so it's only been one week, and while the Detroit Tigers' Cabrera isn't ready to unseat the Cardinals' Albert Pujols for the overall mixed league title, he's off to one of the best opening weeks of his impressive career. Typical fantasy drafts had Cabrera going in the late first round to early second round, which most likely has left more than one armchair baseball GM with at least a stomach pang or two of regret.
What's been nice is that his .522 average leads the American League and is fourth overall after opening week. His eight RBIs as of Monday had him second in the AL and with the fourth most in both leagues. And while many worried for the lack of help in the Tigers' lineup, Detroit's hitting has been strong with help coming from Magglio Ordonez (.462) among others.
Cabrera is only 26 and has racked up at least .292, 26 home runs and 103 RBIs six years running while the last three have been highlighted by 30-plus homers. With his gang-busters start this season and the Tigers' offense overachieving, this could be the year that Cabrera takes the leap from one of the best to nearly Pujols-ian.
Thanks in part to Cabrera, in the über-competitive SI.com and Friends fantasy 15-team rotisserie league, yours truly sits in second place after the first week with 101.5 points (2.5 points out of first). Each squad has 25-man rosters, one DL spot apiece and plenty of guts.
My team, Cabrera's Cannibals, looked like this for opening week
C Yadier Molina, StL
1B Miguel Cabrera, Det
2B Placido Polanco, Phi
3B Aramis Ramirez, ChC
SS Derek Jeter, NYY
2B/SS Kazuo Matsui, Hou
1B/3B Casey Blake, LAD
OF Shin Soo Choo, Cle
OF Rajai Davis, Oak
OF Nolan Reimold, Balt
OF Matt Diaz, Atl
OF Delmon Young, Min
Utility Jason Kubel, Min
SP Adam Wainwright, StL
SP Jake Peavy, ChW
SP Wade Davis, TB
SP Bronson Arroyo, Cin
SP Scott Kazmir, LAA
SP Daisuke Matsuzaka, Bos
RP Jonathan Papelbon, Bos
RP Francisco Rodriguez, NYM
RP Jon Rauch, Min
What I loved (besides Cabrera): Who saw this coming from Placido Polanco? Of course, I expected an uptick in offense with him moving to a stronger team with more bats in the lineup around him. What I didn't expect is that the Phillies look like one of the premiere National League scoring teams we've seen in awhile, with Polanco playing a key role in one of the most dangerous lineups around not wearing pinstripes. Also nice, was Rajai Davis kicking in four RBIs and four steals with 10 hits, seven runs scored and even a home run thrown in for good measure.
What I liked: For one of my last picks, Delmon Young looks strong coming out of the gate. I figured he's in a great lineup, he's only 24 and it was low risk with a decently high ceiling. So far, so good with five hits, seven RBIs and two homers. He's ready for a breakout season. As far as my arms go, most of my pitchers haven't been dominating, but good enough.
What I loathed: Until Monday's home opener at Target Field, Jason Kubel had barely shown a pulse going 3-for-17 last week. His 3-for-4 performance with the first homer at Target field is hopefully the breakthrough he needed. Kazmir and Daisuke's injuries didn't come as a shock, but in larger leagues like this one you need some long shots to come through. Kazmir's first start was scratched and he should be back this week, but the outlook is more cloudy for the gyro-baller.
What I changed: I dropped Matsui and picked up the hot-hitting Edgar Renteria (five hits, 11 RBIs). I don't know how long it might last, but I'm a big believer in jumping on early season waiver-wire heroes some might dismiss as flash in the pans. Smart GMs can always package them in a deal or at least ride said player out to its logical conclusion. Also, I picked up Jeremy Bonderman who after a myriad of health issues last year, came back hurling a split-finger fastball and looked nearly like vintage Bondo, circa 2006 last week.
The NFL offseason took another unexpected hairpin turn with another big name trade as the Pittsburgh Steelers shipped receiver Santonio Holmes to the New York Jets for a fifth round pick Monday.
Before Holmes can join an interesting core of young skill talent on the field, he'll sit out missing the first four games of 2010 due to violating the NFL's substance abuse policy and in fantasy terms, that means missing about a little more than a quarter of the season.
This move might be the death knell of his fantasy stock which, at best, was as a WR3 pre-trade.
Sure, the trio of quarterback Mark Sanchez and receivers Holmes and Braylon Edwards are an intriguing group, while one of the best offensive lines in the league provides protection and opens holes for the Jets' strong running attack.
But here's the rub -- I like Holmes more for his potential in perhaps two years but not next fall. In the short term, this kind of muddles the fantasy stock situation of the Jets. The suspension will hurt, especially for a player who is just getting acclimated to a new team and system and will blunt his Holmes' chance for an impact. Four games is a lot in fantasyland, not to mention in real life.
Also, the Jets will open the offense up eventually, but when? This is at root, mostly a conservative running, risk- adverse kind of offense. Take those already limited passing attempts and now divide them up a little more. Sanchez's stock to rises to a firm QB2 but his pass catching targets' values are damaged. It hurts Edwards' stock, Holmes' stock, not to mention Jerricho Cotchery, who now will eventually fade into the background as a third receiver as well as the value of tight end Dustin Keller. Edwards slips from a strong WR3 to a weak WR3 or decent WR4. His value slides after Week 4 and Holmes is little more than a borderline WR4.
And assuming Holmes puts his off-field priorities in order, the dirty little secret is that he's never been that good of a fantasy receiver. I'll never argue his yards-per catch average, but until last season he had never reached the 1,000-yard mark. In four seasons he's averaged 958 yards and five touchdowns with his breakout yardage performance (1,248 on 79 catches) coming last year. He's only averaged 58 catches a season, to boot. His best touchdown season came in 2007 when he hit paydirt eight times.
While the Steelers have gradually shifted into more of an aerial attack in recent years, Holmes now heads to one of the more conservative offenses in the league with a young quarterback still learning the ropes. While his yards were finally acceptable last season as his stock slipped to third fantasy receiver status, his average production came in feast or famine form with seven games of under 80 yards and three games of 100 or more.
The best bet for fantasy owners who love to roll the dice (or just can't help themselves) to take a late flier on Holmes and hope that by the time the fantasy playoffs are in view, the ex-Steeler has settled in and can start making an impact on some play-action deep balls. For most owners, avoid.
Once the 60 Minutes jokes subsided on draft day or following a nifty waiver-wire transaction last year, the actual joke was on anyone who doubted Steelers rookie Mike Wallace. He might end up being the biggest winner in all of this, depending on whether Pittsburgh takes a receiver moderately high in the upcoming NFL draft. Even if it does, Wallace has the inside track on a starting spot after a sneaky-good 2009 season, where despite starting only four games, he posted 39 catches for 756 yards, six touchdowns and almost 20 yards per catch.
Christopher Harris of ESPN.com echoes the same thoughts on the winners and losers, but has an especially good breakdown of Holmes Hines Ward is a real-life warrior but his fantasy football value has been slipping for years and former Texas product Limas Sweed has looked like a poor-man's Roy Williams. He won't pose much of a playing time threat, unless Ward goes down. Wallace's stock will hit the late-middle (7th, 8th, 9th) rounds come August.