March 13, 2009
Fantasy Clicks
By Jay Clemons
Welcome To Spring Break
Grady Sizemore: Ed Wolfstein/Icon SMI

Even the heartiest of fantasy geeks needs to recharge his/her batteries every now and then ... which is why I'm writing today's abridged Clicks from an undisclosed location (Hawaii? Costa Rica? Pigs Knuckle, Arkansas?) -- while enjoying a pre-Madness vacation with the fiancee and friends. So, before we delve into baseball full-bore here, I'd like to apologize, in advance, for ignoring fantasyland hoops. On the bright side, though, Knicks small forward Quentin Richardson will now be spared any more fantasy ridicule -- at least for one week. Now, on with the show ...

Rank & File

Here's my revised list of the top 26 outfielders in 5x5 American League-only drafts (HRs, RBIs, batting average, steals, runs). Why 26? Well, the list is essentially 25 healthy, reliable performers ... and then Vernon Wells.

1. Grady Sizemore, Indians
2. Matt Holliday, Athletics
3. B.J. Upton, Rays
4. Josh Hamilton, Rangers
5. Carl Crawford, Rays
6. Alex Rios, Blue Jays
7. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
8. Curtis Granderson, Tigers
9. Jason Bay, Red Sox
10. Nick Markakis, Orioles
11. Carlos Quentin, White Sox
12. Bobby Abreu, Angels
13. Vladimir Guerrero, Angels
14. Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
15. Carlos Guillen, Tigers (should have 1B/3B/OF eligibility by April 15)
16. Jermaine Dye, White Sox
17. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners
18. Torii Hunter, Angels
19. Vernon Wells, Blue Jays
20. Adam Jones, Orioles
21. Nelson Cruz, Rangers
22. Jose Guillen, Royals
23. Delmon Young, Twins
24. Xavier Nady, Yankees
25. Johnny Damon, Yankees
25b. Coco Crisp, Royals

Players to Watch: Denard Span, Twins; Ryan Sweeney, Athletics; J.D. Drew, Red Sox; Jason Kubel, Twins; David DeJesus, Royals; David Murphy, Rangers; Shin-Soo Chin, Indians; Matt LaPorta, Indians; Travis Snider, Blue Jays; Juan Rivera, Angels; Travis Buck, Athletics; Luke Scott, Orioles; Carlos Gomez, Twins; Felix Pie, Orioles; Wladimir Balentien, Mariners.

Tiers Of A Clown

In auction drafts, fantasy owners seldom haggle over a buck or two when plotting their pre-draft strategies. Instead, they rely heavily on the tier system to get through the exhaustive process of bidding for talent. So, in deference to these way-too-patient experts, here are the six classifications of outfielders in mixed leagues:

Tier I
Ryan Braun, Brewers
Grady Sizemore, Indians
Alfonso Soriano, Cubs
Manny Ramirez, Dodgers

Tier II
Matt Kemp, Dodgers
Matt Holliday, Athletics
Josh Hamilton, Rangers
B.J. Upton, Rays
Carl Crawford, Rays
Carlos Lee, Astros
Carlos Beltran, Mets
Matt Holliday, Rockies
Vladimir Guerrero, Angels

Tier III
Jason Bay, Red Sox
Curtis Granderson, Tigers
Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox
Nick Markakis, Orioles
Carlos Quentin, White Sox
Bobby Abreu, Angels
Shane Victorino, Phillies
Nate McLouth, Pirates
Magglio Ordonez, Tigers
Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners

Tier IV
Chris Young, Diamondbacks
Carlos Guillen, Tigers (now Detroit's full-time left fielder)
Adam Dunn, Nationals (likely D.C.'s full time first baseman)
Hunter Pence, Astros
Jermaine Dye, White Sox
Corey Hart, Brewers
Johnny Damon, Yankees
Jay Bruce, Reds
Ryan Ludwick, Cardinals
Vernon Wells, Blue Jays

Tier V
Jayson Werth, Phillies
Justin Upton, Diamondbacks
Raul Ibanez, Phillies
Delmon Young, Twins
Torii Hunter, Angels
Andre Ethier, Dodgers
Xavier Nady, Yankees
Lastings Milledge, Nationals
Elijah Dukes, Nationals

Tier VI
Denard Span, Twins
Chris Dickerson, Reds
Nelson Cruz, Rangers
Carlos Gomez, Twins
Rick Ankiel, Cardinals
Coco Crisp, Royals
Randy Winn, Giants
Brad Hawpe, Rockies
Milton Bradley, Cubs
Conor Jackson, Diamondbacks
Jose Guillen, Royals
Jason Kubel, Twins
Adam Jones, Orioles
Cameron Maybin, Marlins

The Real (Fantasy) World

The & Friends baseball draft may be a few weeks away ... but I still need to keep shaping my ever-changing philosophies of selecting players in AL-only, NL-only or mixed leagues. To wit, I joined two freebie leagues last week (courtesy of the four-letter network), with the express purpose of NOT grabbing a pitcher until Round 11, minimum: My purpose, just like the three mock drafts from last week, was to simply build quality teams -- top to bottom -- without the crutch of high-end pitchers. Here are my two rosters:

League A -- Team Name: This Week's TWIB Notes (9th pick overall)
Rounds 1-10: OF Ryan Braun, Brewers; 1B Miguel Cabrera, Tigers; 1B Justin Morneau, Twins; OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers; OF Alex Rios, Blue Jays; C Brian McCann, Braves; 2B Alexei Ramirez, White Sox; 1B Joey Votto, Reds; OF Jermaine Dye, White Sox; OF/1B Chone Figgins, Angels.

Rounds 11-25: 3B/1B/OF Carlos Guillen, Tigers; OF Vernon Wells, Blue Jays; RP Matt Capps, Pirates; SP Ricky Nolasco, Marlins; SP Kevin Slowey, Twins; RP Joey Devine, Athletics; SP Josh Johnson, Marlins; SP Justin Verlander, Tigers; RP Matt Lindstrom, Marlins; RP Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks; RP Mike Gonzalez, Braves; OF Elijah Dukes, Nationals; SS/2B Yunel Escobar, Braves; 2B Kelly Johnson, Braves; RP Mike Jacobs, Royals.

Verdict: You'd be hard-pressed to find a better 1-2 fantasy punch than Braun and Cabrera in the first 12 picks. In fact, I have not seen Miggy go lower than 9 or 10 in any mock draft. The next seven picks all have an even-money shot at becoming All-Stars this season, while Figgins is one of fantasyland's most intriguing wild cards. First Half Grade: A On the pitching side ... I love my corps of solid -- if not stellar -- closers from Capps, Devine, Lindstrom, Qualls and Gonzo; and my four-deep rotation of Verlander, Slowey, Johnson and Nolasco all cracked my top 20 preseason pitcher rankings. O joy! Second Half Grade: A-

League B -- Team Name: Count Chocula's Henchmen (6th pick overall)
Rounds 1-10: OF Grady Sizemore, Indians; 1B Lance Berkman, Astros; 1B Prince Fielder, Brewers; 2B Brandon Phillips, Reds; OF B.J. Upton, Rays; 3B Chipper Jones, Braves; OF Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox; OF vernon Wells, Blue Jays; SS Michael Young, Rangers; C/1B Victor Martinez, Indians.

Rounds 11-25: RP Jonathan Broxton, Dodgers; RP Kerry Wood, Indians; RP Matt Capps, Pirates; SP Ervin Santana, Angels; SP Justin Verlander, Tigers; RP Heath Bell, Padres; SP Matt Garza, Rays; SP Josh Johnson, Marlins; RP Joey Devine, Athletics; OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers; SP Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers; OF Elijah Dukes, Nationals; 1B Mike Jacobs, Royals; SS/2B Yunel Escobar, Braves; SP Ubaldo Jimenez, Rockies.

Verdict: Once again, I'm loaded with offensive stars at the top of the draft. But when comparing League B to League A ... I'd rather have just about every stud from 'This Week's TWIB Notes.' On the flip side, I'd rather possess Count Chocula's pitching stars -- especially Kershaw and Jimenez, two likely fantasyland megastars for the 2010 NL-only and mixed-league drafts.Grade: B+

Wanna Join Our League?

For the & Friends baseball league, we've decided to avail our membership this season to one lucky Clicks reader (or unlucky -- depending on how you draft). Up until March 20, we'll be accepting short-essay submissions (limit 1-2 paragaphs, please) for the 14th slot in our small, but prestigious fantasy league (kind of like George Costanza). The requirements are simple: You need to be a passionate fantasy player (as demonstrated in the short essay), you need to have a computer (for the Java-enabled LIVE draft sometime in late March or early April), you should enjoy posting humorous retorts on our league message board ... and, perhaps above all, you must be comfortable with accepting or declining blockbuster trade proposals during the graveyard-shift period of 2-6 a.m. -- the bewitching hours for all the Atlanta-based employees. (Note: On March 4, I received a one-day record of 22 submissions from prospective owners -- including five from Canadian players ... but not one reference to the world renowned smoked meat sandwiches.)

Grady Vs. Brauny

What's more to your liking ... a sweet-swinging lefty (and matinee idol in his adopted Midwest hometown) who's an absolute beast on the base paths OR a sweet-swinging righty (and matinee idol in his adopted Midwest hometown) who's an absolute beast in everything but steals? When it comes to Cleveland's Grady Sizemore and Milwaukee's Ryan Braun, I'm having trouble deciphering which hitter will have the better fantasy season. In fact, from my seat in the dugout, the race is too close to call right now ... which is why I have solicited the help of preseason annuals in declaring the eventual winner:

Fanball magazine
Sizemore: 30 HRs, 96 RBIs, 119 runs, 36 steals, .282 average
Braun: 39 HRs, 122 RBIs, 92 runs, 17 steals, .307 average

Sizemore: 29 HRs, 84 RBIs, 114 runs, 30 steals, .283 average
Braun: 39 HRs, 107 RBIs, 110 runs, 18 steals, .296 average

Fantasy Baseball Index
Sizemore: 30 HRs, 84 RBIs, 114 runs, 35 steals, .280 average
Braun: 41 HRs, 106 RBIs, 94 runs, 15 steals, .303 average

Sizemore: 32 HRs, 85 RBIs, 113 runs, 35 steals, .286 average
Braun: 39 HRs, 112 RBIs, 93 runs, 16 steals, .307 average

Verdict: If you're looking for straight-up domination in steals or runs ... obviously, Grady's your man. But if you're a conservative owner who prefers across-the-board fantasy goodness, then how can you turn down Braun's top-20 potential in all five categories? Hmmm ... the more I think about it, I would rather have Braun on my team. In fact, isn't that what happened for 'This Week's TWIB Notes' -- just two sectors above? (For the record, Braun was already off the board in the League B draft.)

The Impetuousness Of Youth

It's the grim reality of fantasy baseball, folks: To win a roto-style championship in AL- or NL-only leagues, you must have intimate knowledge of the next wave of dynamic playmakers coming from the minors. To wit, here is a listing of The Sporting News' top 20 prospects for the 2009 season:

1. SP David Price, Rays
2. SP Max Scherzer, Diamondbacks
3. C Matt Wieters, Orioles
4. OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays
5. OF Matt LaPorta, Indians
6. C/1B Pablo Sandoval, Giants
7. OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals
8. 3B/OF Daniel Murphy, Mets
9. C Taylor Teagarden, Rangers
10. OF Cameron Maybin, Marlins
11. RP Jeff Samardzija, Cubs
12. 1B Gaby Sanchez, Marlins
13. OF Chris Dickerson, Reds
14. SP Trevor Cahill, Athletics
15. OF Josh Anderson, Braves
16. OF Brett Gardner, Yankees
17. SP Tommy Hanson, Braves
18. 3B/OF Mat Gamel, Brewers
19. OF Will Venable, Padres
20. C Lou Marson, Phillies

For a detailed listing of each franchise's top 10 prospects (courtesy of Baseball America), click here.

A Word About Pedro

There's no way of sugarcoating the following diatribe, so I'm just going to say it: I could care less about Pedro Martinez's likely return to the majors this spring -- assuming some pitching-thin, attention-starved club acquiesces to Pedro's salary demands. Yes, he's a borderline Hall of Fame pitcher (three Cy Youngs, 214 wins, 2.91 career ERA and 1.05 WHIP). Yes, he wags his index finger like no other player in professional sports (sorry, Dikembe Mutombo). Yes, the Soul-Glo hairstyle continues to be a winning look. Yes, I still have a quirky habit of imitating (dare I say ... mimicking?) his pitching windup/throwing motion while watching baseball on TV in my living room (I can do Jack Morris to a T, as well). Yes, I love how Pedro's fellow countrymen (from the Dominican Republic) treat one of his starts with a type of fanaticism usually reserved for Beatles concerts at Shea Stadium. And yes, I still love it when ESPN shows footage of his priceless reaction in Game 7 of the 2003 ALCS, upon ex-Red Sox skipper Grady Little visiting the mound but NOT replacing him with Mike Timlin late in the game.

That said, from a fantasyland perspective, I wouldn't waste a high- or even mid-round draft pick on Pedro in NL-only leagues (I doubt he'll play in the American League); and I cannot, in good conscience, invest a late-round pick in mixed leagues, either. Approaching the age of 38 (come October 25), injury-prone Pedro has a minimal upside of only 7 wins, 80 strikeouts to, ahem, complement painfully high totals in the ERA and WHIP departments. In other words, it's all style over substance.

Spring Into Action

I know it's early, and most people don't even pay attention to Grapefruit and Cactus league happenings until after St. Patrick's Day ... but here are the spring leaders in four crucial categories (through March 12):

1. OF Xavier Paul, Dodgers -- 13
2. SS Jhonny Peralta, Indians -- 8
3. OF Ryan Sweeney, Athletics -- 8
4. 2B Mike Fontenot, Cubs -- 8
5. 1B Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs -- 9
6. OF Daniel Murphy, Mets -- 12
7. 1B Jeff Bailey, Red Sox -- 11
8. 2B Nick Green, Red Sox -- 11
9. SS Emmanuel Burriss, Giants -- 11
10. OF Travis Snider, Blue Jays -- 11
11. SS Juan Castro, Dodgers -- 11
12. SS Jason Donald, Phillies -- 11
13. 3B Andy LaRoche, Pirates -- 11
14. SS Ryan Theriot, Cubs -- 11
15. SS Angel Berroa, Yankees -- 11

1. OF Joe Mather, Cardinals -- 11
2. OF Jon Weber, Rays -- 10
3. OF Chris Duncan, Cardinals -- 10
4. 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies -- 10
5. OF John Mayberry Jr., Phillies -- 10
6. OF Xavier Paul, Dodgers -- 10
7. OF Mitch Maier, Royals -- 9
8. 3B Blake DeWitt, Dodgers -- 9
9. OF Jonny Gomes, Reds -- 9
10. 1B Micah Hoffpauir, Cubs -- 9
11. 3B Brandon Wood, Angels -- 9
12. SS Mitch Jones, Dodgers -- 8
13. 3B Ryan Rohlinger, Giants -- 8
14. OF/DH Pat Burrell, Rays -- 8

1. 1B Garrett Jones, Pirates -- 10
2. SS Juan Castro, Dodgers -- 9
3. 1B Chris Davis, Rangers -- 8
4. 2B Mike Fontenot, Cubs -- 8
5. 1B Jake Fox, Cubs -- 8
6. OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates -- 8
7. OF Skip Schumaker, Cardinals -- 8
8. 2B Eugenio Velez, Giants -- 8
9. OF Rajaj Davis, Athletics -- 8

1. 3B Ryan Freel, Orioles -- 5
2. OF Adam Jones, Orioles -- 5
3. OF Michael Bourn, Astros -- 5
5. SS Eric Bruntlett, Phillies -- 5
6. 3B Chone Figgins, Angels -- 3
7. OF Gabe Gross, Rays -- 3
8. SS Elliot Johnson, Rays -- 3
9. OF Reggie Willits, Angels -- 3
10. OF Norris Hopper, Reds -- 3
11. OF Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 3
12. OF Fred Lewis, Giants -- 3
13. OF Juan Pierre, Dodgers -- 3
14. 3B Ryan Roberts, Diamondbacks -- 3
15. 2B Eugenio Velez, Giants -- 3

Who Is ... Micah Hoffpauir?
Micah Hoffpauir: Mike Carlson/Icon SMI

Move over, Mr. Owings ... there's another candidate for the prestigious "Best Micah of the Major Leagues in 2009" award, now that Cubs first baseman Micah Hoffpauir is off to a blazing start in Cactus League play. As you can see from above, Hoffpauir has been one of the spring's top producers in hits, average, HRs, RBIs -- a mild extension of his 5-for-5 day with two HRs and five RBIs against the Mets last September -- and has momentarily given Cubs executives reason to smile ... should Derrek Lee ever hit the injured list for a sustainable period. From a fantasy perspective, however, Hoffpauir has no immediate value right now in 10-, 12- or 14-team mixed leagues. But in NL-only ones, he's definitely worth a late-round flier come draft day. Plus, you'll have fun building your fantasy team's nickname around (HOFF-POWER).

Ooh, That's Scary!

So, I had initially planned to splice in clips from any one of the Friday The 13th movies (quick note: Kevin Bacon had a prominent role in the original, circa 1980) to hammer home my points about Detroit's "Who's Going To Be The 5th Starter?" quandary. But, as you'll clearly see in the following links, there is no Jason Voorhees footage more frightening than the actual Exhibit A ... and Exhibit B of potential starters to fill out the rotation (assuming hotshot rookie Rick Porcello gets some more seasoning in the minors). Godspeed, Tigers fans!

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