March 22, 2010
Fantasy Clicks
Fantasy Prose & Cons: Mauer's Staying Power
Joe Mauer: Tom Dahlin/Getty Images

Unless you've been sitting under a rock for the last 24 hours, with hands covering both ears, shouting inane sentence fragments to no one in particular ... you've likely heardthat reigning American League MVP Joe Mauer has OK'd a Teixeira-like $184 million extension with the Twins. ForMinnesotans and Twins fans everywhere, this is the best possible news for a franchise whose bright present may actually be surpassed by a luminous future(Aaron Hicks, Ben Revere and Kyle Gibson -- remember the names!); for fantasy owners, though, the massive extension neitherhinders nor greatly enhances Mauer's 2010 value:

Pro: Mauer enters the season fully healthy and seemingly ready for 140-plus games. This time last year, there were rumors and innuendo thathe might miss the first half of the season with debilitating leg/back pain ... and at the very least, would have to play the majority of games at DH or --perish the thought -- third base. As a result, Mauer was going for rock-bottom prices in various snake-draft and auction leagues (9th-round in AL-only foryours truly). Well, so much for that preseason panic, huh? In 2009, Mauer experienced career highs in hits, homers, RBIs, batting average, sluggingpercentage, OBP and OPS ... while singlehandedly boosting his 2010 draft-day stock to the neighborhood of Alex Rodriguez, Ryan Howard, Miggy Cabrera,Matt Kemp midway through Round 1, no matter the scoring format.

Con: The odds of Mauer meeting or surpassing 28 homers at Target Field (and away games) are remote. Yes, the Twins play 10 of their first 18home games in the daytime (April 5 through May 12), giving the ball a greater chance of leaving the new park -- that's the good news. But no matter how youslice it, the temperatures will struggle to exceed 60 during that time frame, which doesn't bode well for power hitters like Justin Morneau, MichaelCuddyer and Mauer. Gee, since we're talking Mauer and power (it's a fun rhyme, isn't it?), the following party-pooper statement mustbe repeated: From 2006-08, Mauer belted 29 combined homers. (One last thing: The new dimensions of Target Field are not as homer-friendly as the old Metrodome.)

Pro: Morneau is back in the lineup and ready to protect Mauer. Seriously, if Mauer can bash 28 dingers and hit .365 in a so-so season forMorneau, the 2006 AL MVP, just imagine what kind of damage he'll do with Morneau by his side the whole time.

Con: There'll be fewer RBI opportunities for Mauer with Morneau swinging a hot stick. Obviously, this is a shallow point to make regardingMauer's individual stats. For one, he's a team guy who probably could care less about fantasy numbers or individual glory. The larger point merely speculatesthat Mauer's year of Herculean power in 2009 may have been a mild aberration.

Pro: Mauer has a great shot at posting 90-plus runs for a third straight season. And why not, with Morneau, Cuddyer, J.J.Hardy and Jim Thome batting around him. Throw in the on-base capabilities of Orlando Hudson and DenardSpan and Minnesota potentially has its best offense in years.

Con: There's no need for Mauer to attempt more than 7-10 steals. Let's say Mauer ends up with five successful steals in 2010, his averagefor the last four seasons. It's a cute number for a catcher to attain ... but not enough to make a fantasy owner pass on Chase Utley -- as aRound 1 comparison of overall stats and positional scarcity.

Pro: Remarkably, Mauer has made three All-Star teams, won three division titles and claimed one MVP trophy before his 27th birthday. The optimist could argue that Mauer has yet to reach his full potential as a baseball player, and thus, presumptive Hall of Fame candidate in about, oh, 14years.

Con: The law of averages are the law of averages for a reason. Whatever goes up ... must invariably come down -- even atimperceptible-to-the-human-eye levels. In other words, I'll be shocked if Mauer tops last year's production in batting average, homers and sluggingpercentage. But don't expect a Russell Martin-like dropoff across the board; simply set your phasers to "mildly stunned" when seeingprojections of 17 HRs, 84 RBIs, 87 runs, 5 steals and .330 average.

Total Bases Recall

For the loyal Clicks readers in fantasy football, you've heard me prattle on a thousand times about the importance of Targets -- the number of times areceiver is thrown to -- and how it's a fail-safe method for evaluating receivers. Well, I am equally passionate about Total Bases in fantasy baseball. In mydelusional world, TB is the perfect tool for coveting power-gap hitters and on-base machines who make a living out of hitting loooooong doubles. It's also astellar indicator of future success -- even in meaningless spring games. To wit, here are the Grapefruit and Cactus leagues' most productive base-makers (asof March 21):

1. SS Sean Rodriguez, Rays -- 34 total bases
2. OF Fernando Martinez, Mets -- 33 total bases
3. OF Justin Ruggiano, Rays -- 31
4. OF Hunter Pence, Astros -- 30
5. 2B Delwyn Young, Pirates -- 27
6. SS Tony Abreu, Angels -- 26
7. 3B Jose Bautista, Blue Jays -- 26
8. 1B Chris Davis, Rangers -- 26
9. 3B Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals -- 26
10. OF Kyle Blanks, Padres -- 25
11. OF Tyler Colvin, Cubs -- 25
12. OF Nelson Cruz, Rangers -- 25
13. 3B Chris Johnson, Astros -- 25
14. OF Colby Rasmus, Cardinals -- 25
15. 1B Ike Davis, Mets -- 24
16. 1B Aubrey Huff, Giants -- 24
17. OF Josh Reddick, Red Sox -- 24
18. 1B Allen Craig, Cardinals -- 23
19. OF/1B Michael Cuddyer, Twins -- 23
20. SS Ian Desmond, Nationals -- 23
21. OF Josh Hamilton, Rangers -- 23
22. 1B strong>Randy Ruiz, Blue Jays -- 23
23. 3B Rusty Ryal, Diamondbacks -- 23
24. OF Andre Ethier, Dodgers -- 22
25. OF Cole Gillespie, Diamondbacks -- 22
26. OF Austin Jackson, Tigers -- 22
27. 3B Don Kelly, Tigers -- 22
28. C Mike Napoli, Angels -- 22
29. SS Jimmy Rollins, Phillies -- 22
30. DH Mike Sweeney, Mariners -- 22

Let's Compare Grapefruits

**Curtis Granderson's stats through March 21: .222 average (6-for-27), 1 run, 0 HRs, 1 RBI, 0 steals, .323 OBP

**Rookie Austin Jackson's numbers through March 21: .350 average (14-for-40), 10 runs, 1 HRs, 2 RBIs, 2 steals, .435 OBP

Verdict:Let's be real here. No one is expecting Austin Jackson -- the Tigers' blue-chip door prize for dealing away Granderson andEdwin Jackson in the offseason -- to post better fantasy numbers than Granderson in 2010. After all, Granderson is an All-Star playing inhis prime, with a quite-tempting short porch at his disposal for 81 home dates at new Yankee Stadium ... whereas A-Jax likely needs more seasoning beforepermanently announcing his presence in the majors. But then again,there's a reason why Detroit is so keen on Jackson's real-world (and fantasyland) potential; and there's a reason why the club hardly lamented losing apotential 30-30 stud for the next few years. (Hint: Granderson batted.183 against lefties in 2009.)

Understanding ADP: Catchers

Citing the latest info from our friends at Mock Draft Central and the Average DraftPosition component, here's a general idea of where/when we can expect the top catchers to come off the board in mixed leagues:

Joe Mauer, Twins (12th overall)
Victor Martinez, Red Sox (24th overall)
Brian McCann, Braves (43rd overall)
Matt Wieters, Orioles (93rd overall)
Jorge Posada, Yankees (119th overall)
Russell Martin, Dodgers (141st overall)
Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks (142nd overall)
Kurt Suzuki, Athletics (143rd overall)
Geovany Soto, Cubs (145th overall)
Mike Napoli, Angels (163rd overall)
Chris Iannetta, Rockies (167th overall)
Bengie Molina, Giants (170th overall)
Ryan Doumit, Pirates (189th overall)
Yadier Molina, Cardinals (209th overall)
A.J. Pierzynski, White Sox (230th overall)
Miguel Olivo, Rockies (250th overall)
Carlos Ruiz, Phillies (260th overall)
John Baker, Marlins (274th overall)
Buster Posey, Giants (275th overall)
Ramon Hernandez, Reds (278th overall)

Tiers Of A Clown: Starting Pitchers

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 toget through the sometimes-exhaustive process of bidding for talent. Taking an auctioneer's cue, here are seven classifications of starting pitchers in mixedleagues:

Tier I
Tim Lincecum, Zack Greinke, Roy Halladay, Adam Wainwright, CC Sabathia, Justin Verlander, Felix Hernandez

Tier II
Jon Lester, Dan Haren, Josh Johnson, Yovani Gallardo, Cliff Lee, Javier Vazquez, Chris Carpenter

Tier III
Clayton Kershaw, Tommy Hanson, Ubaldo Jimenez, Josh Beckett, Johan Santana, Ricky Nolasco, Matt Cain, Jake Peavy, Cole Hamels

Tier IV
James Shields, Wandy Rodriguez, Kevin Slowey, Matt Garza, Jered Weaver, Chad Billingsley, John Lackey, Roy Oswalt, Brett Anderson, Stephen Strasburg,Brandon Webb

Tier V
Jair Jurrjens, Scott Baker, A.J. Burnett, Ryan Dempster, Daisuke Matsuzaka, Jorge de la Rosa, Netfali Feliz, David Price, Rick Porcello, CarlosZambrano, Scott Kazmir

Tier VI
Brian Matusz, Edwin Jackson, Mark Buehrle, John Danks, Derek Lowe, Zach Duke, Rich Harden, Trevor Cahill, Max Scherzer, Andy Pettitte, BronsonArroyo, Wade Davis

Tier VII
Homer Bailey, Aroldis Chapman, Randy Wells, Jeff Niemann, Randy Wolf, Mat Latos, Kevin Correia, Huroki Kuroda, Johnny Cueto, Kevin Millwood, J.A.Happ, Joba Chamberlain, Ervin Santana, Jeff Francis, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, Ross Ohlendorf, Gavin Floyd, Jonathan Sanchez, Nick Blackburn, MadisonBumgarner

And The Winners Are ...

After a long afternoon of deliberating among the 74 applicants who aspired to join the & Friends fantasy baseball league ... I extended invitations to (and received confirmations from) Andrew Lamb of South Bend, Ind. and Danny Lampson of southern California. Believe me, it was a near-impossible task to single out only one or two essays from the pack of qualified contestants -- all men, by the way -- but in the end, we're proud to welcome Lamb and Lampson into the Sports Illustrated dysfuctional fantasy family. Regarding the other 72 entrants, I would love to partake in an offshoot league ... if there's sufficient interest for such a project.

Once again, I sincerely appreciate the time and effort of everyone who participated in the essay contest; and perhaps that offshoot league will gather steam in the coming days. Thank you, everybody!

Running With Scissors

Here are's projections for the burners who'll steal at least 20 bases in '10:
1. Jacoby Ellsbury, Red Sox -- 54 steals
2. Michael Bourn, Astros -- 51 steals
3. Carl Crawford, Rays -- 50
4. B.J. Upton, Rays -- 41
5. Juan Pierre, White Sox -- 41 (I've seen estimates as high as 75 thefts)
6. Nyjer Morgan, Nationals -- 40
7. Julio Borbon, Rangers -- 40
8. Rajaj Davis, Athletics -- 40 (a low OBP puts strain on high estimates)
9. Brett Gardner, Yankees -- 40
10. Carlos Gomez, Brewers -- 36
11. Dexter Fowler, Rockies -- 33
12. Drew Stubbs, Reds -- 31
13. Matt Kemp, Dodgers -- 30
14. Andrew McCutchen, Pirates -- 30 (could easily get 50 steals, if healthy)
15. Shane Victorino, Phillies -- 27
16. Grady Sizemore, Indians -- 25 (could see fewer opps batting 3rd for the Tribe)
17. Ichiro Suzuki, Mariners -- 25
18. Alex Rios, White Sox -- 25
19. Eugenio Velez, Giants -- 23
20. Curtis Granderson, Yankees -- 22
21. Bobby Abreu, Angels -- 22
22. Willie Bloomquist, Royals -- 22
23. Willy Taveras, Free Agent -- 22
24. Coco Crisp, Athletics -- 22
25. Denard Span, Twins -- 22
26. Nate McLouth, Braves -- 21
27. Chris Young, Diamondbacks -- 20
28. Carlos Gonzalez, Rockies -- 20

Understanding ADP: Third Basemen
Aramis Ramirez: Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

Once again, MockDraft Central has identified the round-by-round studs at the hotcorner:
Alex Rodriguez, Yankees (3rd overall)
Evan Longoria, Rays (10th overall)
David Wright, Mets (14th overall)
Mark Reynolds, Diamondbacks (21st overall)
Ryan Zimmerman, Nationals (32nd overall)
Pablo Sandoval, Giants (38th overall)
Aramis Ramirez, Cubs (62nd overall)
Chone Figgins, Mariners (84th overall)
Gordon Beckham, White Sox (86th overall)
Michael Young, Rangers (91st overall)
Ian Stewart, Rockies (121st overall)
Chipper Jones, Braves (134th overall)
Adrian Beltre, Red Sox (177th overall)
Jhonny Peralta, Indians (199th overall)
Alex Gordon, Royals (217th overall)
Casey McGehee, Brewers (219th overall)
Mark DeRosa, Cardinals (250th overall)
Edwin Encarnacion, Blue Jays (261st overall)
Garrett Atkins, Orioles (268th overall)
Casey Blake, Dodgers (286th overall)
Mark Teahen, White Sox (317th overall)

It's What To Look For

Are you having trouble making sense of the 241 publications -- give or take a few -- devoted to fantasy baseball this spring (print and online)? Morespecifically, can you tell the difference between a draftable and non-draftable starting pitcher? Well, here are some across-the-board, minimumrequirements for selecting pitchers -- in terms of 2010 projections:

Mixed Leagues
WHIP: 1.29 (the 1.40-plus guys will absolutely kill you)
Strikeouts: A 2.5-to-1 K/BB ratio
ERA: 4.03 (don't let any 4.10-plus pitcher off the hook in mixes)
Wins: 14 (I'm the least militant about this one -- since pitchers have little control over wins)

AL- or NL-Only Leagues
WHIP: 1.34
Strikeouts: A 2.25-to-1 K/BB ratio
ERA: 4.16
Wins: 12

Depth Of Knowledge

There is no greater resource than the official depth charts for each MLB club. In no particular order ...

National League
Marlins | Braves | Mets | Phillies | Nationals

Reds | Pirates | Cubs | Brewers | Cardinals | Astros

Dodgers | Diamondbacks |Padres | Rockies | Giants

American League
Red Sox | Orioles | Rays | Yankees | Blue Jays

White Sox | Tigers | Indians | Royals | Twins

Rangers | Angels | Athletics | Mariners

It's All About The Slot: #10

The No. 10 pick in a 12-team fantasy draft really isn't so bad. Basically, you get to watch other owners reach for players -- god knows why -- beforesettling on a sensible value pick (presumably with wonderful upside). And if that's not grand enough, BOOM!, there's another pick coming down the pipe justfive slots later! OK, so maybe I'm overselling the experience a bit ... but there's really nothing to worry about here -- especially when possessing a greatstrategy for the 10th and 15th slots:

Round 1, Pick 10 overall: Motive -- Best overall player
1st option: 1B Ryan Howard, Phillies ... 2nd option: 2B Ian Kinsler, Rangers

Round 2, Pick 15 overall: Motive -- Best corner infielder or outfielder
1st option: 3B Evan Longoria, Rays ... 2nd option: 3B David Wright, Mets

Round 3, Pick 34 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF Jayson Werth, Phillies ... 2nd option: SP Felix Hernandez, Mariners

Round 4, Pick 39 overall: Motive -- Best outfielder or power-hitting infielder
1st option: OF Nick Markakis, Orioles ... 2nd option: 1B Joey Votto, Reds

Round 5, Pick 58 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or top-ranked closer
1st option: SP Jon Lester, Red Sox... 2nd option: RP Jonathan Papelbon, Red Sox

Round 6, Pick 63: Motive -- Best outfielder, pitcher (or guy named 'Lee')
1st option: OF Carlos Lee, Astros ... 2nd option: SP Cliff Lee, Mariners

Round 7, Pick 82 overall: Motive -- Best pitcher or middle infielder
1st option: SP Yovani Gallardo, Brewers ... 2nd option: SS Jason Bartlett, Rays

Round 8, Pick 87 overall: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or 5-category outfielder
1st option: SP Matt Cain, Giants ... 2nd option: OF Andrew McCutchen, Pirates

Round 9, Pick 106 overall: Motive -- Best middle infielder or power hitter
1st option: 3B Gordon Beckham, White Sox ... 2nd option: 1B Billy Butler, Royals

Round 10, Pick 111 overall: Motive -- Best high-end closer
1st option: RP Heath Bell, Padres ... 2nd option: C Matt Wieters, Orioles

Round 11, Pick 130: Motive -- Best corner infielder or starting pitcher
1st option: OF/1B Garrett Jones, Pirates ... 2nd option: SP Matt Garza, Rays

Round 12, Pick 135: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or middle infielder
1st option: SP Matt Garza, Rays ... 2nd option: SS Elvis Andrus, Rangers

Round 13, Pick 154: Motive -- Best middle infielder
1st option: 2B/3B Ian Stewart, Rockies ... 2nd option: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers

Round 14, Pick 159: Motive -- Best outfielder or versatile infielder
1st option: OF Corey Hart, Brewers ... 2nd option: 2B/3B Casey McGehee, Brewers

Round 15, Pick 178: Motive -- Best closer or catcher
1st option: RP Chad Qualls, Diamondbacks ... 2nd option: C Miguel Montero, Diamondbacks

Round 16, Pick 183: Motive -- Best player available
1st option: SP Kevin Slowey, Twins ... 2nd option: RP Francisco Cordero, Reds

Round 17, Pick 202: Motive -- Best closer or outfielder (emphasis on speed)
1st option: RP Billy Wagner, Braves ... 2nd option: OF Julio Borbon, Rangers

Round 18, Pick 207: Motive -- Best middle infielder or outfielder
1st option: 2B Howie Kendrick, Angels ... 2nd option: OF Drew Stubbs, Reds

Round 19, Pick 226: Motive -- Best starting pitcher or power reliever
1st option: SP Brett Anderson, Athletics ... 2nd option: SP/RP Joba Chamberlain, Yankees

Round 20, Pick 231: Motive -- Best catcher
1st option: C Mike Napoli, Angels ... 2nd option: RP Jason Frasor, Blue Jays

Round 21, Pick 250: Motive -- Young player with greatest upside
1st option: SP Wade Davis, Rays ... 2nd option: 3B Pedro Alvarez, Pirates

Vegas, Baby!

There will be no Fantasy Clicks on Wednesday, for I'll be attending the Las Vegas-based Interactive Sports Conference on that day. Officially, I'll be serving as a moderator for the Fantasy: What Is Next? paneldiscussion, featuring Ed Bunnell (Fox Sports), Ryan Berger (HotBox Sports), Jason Manasse (Accuscore) andWarrick Taylor (FanDuel); unofficially, I'll be touting my new pop-up book chronicling the greatest fantasy baseball players of the 1980s --Rickey Henderson, Vince Coleman, Andre Dawson, George Brett, Mike Schmidt, Gary Carter, Tim Raines, Doc Gooden and, of course, theincomparable Gary Redus and Phil Bradley. This is what happens when you don't know how to play backgammon in Vegas -- youconjure faux-ideas for the worst book ever! See ya Friday.

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