Thursday, December 15, 2011

Fantasy Heroes and Zeroes 2011

Now that the Winter Meetings have wrapped up in Dallas, MLB rosters are beginning to take shape for the 2012 season. Much of the buzz surrounding the annual four-day event was focused first baseman Albert Pujols.

Questions swirled such as; Will the 31-year old leave St. Louis, the only organization he has ever played for, in order to take his talents to sunny South Beach, a-la LeBron? Will he be stolen away by division-rival Chicago and new GM Theo Epstein? Or, will he remain with the Cardinals, the team that he led to two World Series titles in the past five years?

The answer, of course, is that he will sign with the Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim for a reported 10-year, $254 million deal.

Besides the mighty Albert, dozens of other players were traded or signed as free agents now that the off season is in full swing, so what better time to look back on the year and break down the heroes and zeroes of the 2011 fantasy season team-by-team.

All stats and metrics courtesy of FanGraphs.

Average Draft Position (ADP) and Final Player Rating (FPR) are for ESPN Standard 10-team mixed rotisserie leagues. If either is not designated, that means the player was outside the top 230.

Arizona Diamondbacks:

Hero: Ian Kennedy – SP - ADP: 212.7 - FPR: 25

After a rocky rookie season with the Yankees (2008) and a ho-hum 9-10 record with the Diamondbacks last season, Kennedy finally pitched like a first round pick in 2011. He led the National League in wins (21) and finished top-10 in innings pitched (222.0), WHIP (1.09), ERA (2.88) and strikeouts (198). The 26 year-old right-hander relied more on his two-seam fastball this season to keep batters off-balance, which helped lower his BB/9 from 3.25 to 2.23. Kennedy’s WPA (4.57) was the third highest in the entire MLB, behind only AL trophy-hog Justin Verlander, and Jered Weaver.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Roberts – OF/2B/3B – ADP: (-) – FPR: 110

Zero: Stephen Drew – SS – ADP: 111.7 – FPR: 447

It may seem a bit unfair that Drew is listed here, since he only played in 86 games due to ankle and sports hernia injuries, but even when he was in the lineup he wasn’t doing much to help the D-Backs. He hit only five home runs in 354 plate appearances, and his strikeout rate rose for the second consecutive season (to 20.9%, worst since his rookie season in 2006) – hardly the production you would expect from the 8th shortstop off the board.

Atlanta Braves:

Hero: Craig Kimbrel – RP – ADP: 174.8 – FPR: 27

There was much preseason buzz about Kimbrel, but questions about control and his bullpen role allowed him to slide into the late rounds of most drafts. The 22 year-old flamethrower answered those questions by striking out five of the first six batters he faced in 2011, before setting a rookie record, and leading the NL, with 46 saves. Kimbrel fanned a ridiculous 127 batters in 77 innings pitched with a respectable 2.10 ERA and 1.04 WHIP, earning him Rookie of the Year honors.

Honorable Mention: Freddie Freeman – 1B – ADP: 212.5 – FPR:111

Zero: Jason Heyward – OF – ADP: 44.4 – FPR: 386

Heyward suffered through a frustrating campaign in 2011, and seemed to succumb to the dreaded sophomore slump. True, the ROY runner-up from last season played a portion of the season hampered by injuries, and missed a few weeks in May/June, but his numbers took a dramatic tumble from his very successful rookie season. His average and slugging percentage plunged 70 points each, and he was less selective at the plate (walk percentage fell from 14.3% to 11.2%).

Baltimore Orioles:

Hero: Adam Jones – OF – ADP: 134.9 – FPR: 70

Jones didn’t rocket up the rankings as many of the other “heroes” listed here. His ADP slots him as the 37th outfielder off the board in most drafts, and he finished ranked 24th, not exactly a meteoric rise. That being said, the 26 year-old centerfielder set career highs in home runs (25), RBI (83) and stolen bases (12).

Honorable Mention: J.J. Hardy – SS – ADP: 215.1 – FPR: 111

Zero: Brian Matusz – SP – ADP: 198.1 – FPR: (-)

You may be wondering how a 20th round pick ended up as a zero. Well, Matusz wasn’t simply bad in 2011, he was terrible, awful, atrocious and appalling all rolled into one. No pitcher had a worse season than this southpaw. He started 12 games this season, posting a 1-9 record with a 10.69 ERA. Opposing batters hit 3.26 HR/9 off of him, and batted .372. No pitcher in the history of the sport has allowed a worse BAA with at least 240 batters faced. The faint silver lining around this ominous cloud is that the 24 year-old missed two months early in the season with an intercostal strain, and he may have rushed back and attempted to play though the injury.

Boston Red Sox:

Hero: Jacoby Ellsbury – OF – ADP: 53.1 – FPR: 2

After playing in just 18 games in 2010 due to a rib injury, Ellsbury went nuts this season. He shattered his previous career highs in HR (32, previously nine), RBI (105, previously 60) and runs (119, previously 98). Sure, his stolen base numbers took a hit (39, down from 70 in 2009), but the 28 year-old centerfielder led the entire league with a WAR of 9.4. Throw in a Gold Glove, and this season wasn’t too shabby.

Honorable Mention: Josh Beckett – SP- ADP 177.5 – FPR: 44

Zero: Carl Crawford – OF – ADP: 3 – FPR: 190

After signing a seven-year, $142 million contract to play in Beantown, Crawford had an underwhelming season in 2011. Crawford had a slow start in April, but he appeared to be turning the campaign around in May before suffering a hamstring injury. For a player known for his speed, a bum hammy is the last thing he needed. For the first time since 2002, his rookie season, Crawford stole less than 20 bases. His average also fell to .255, and OBP was a career-low .289.

Chicago Cubs:

Hero: Starlin Castro – SS – ADP: 154.4 – FPR: 34

Entering the season, many thought that Castro could be the stud fantasy shortstop of the future. After finishing sixth in the NL in batting average (.307), it is apparent that the future is now. Castro finished the season as the second-ranked SS, behind only Troy Tulowitzki. He saw a jump in basically every fantasy statistic compared to 2010: HR (three to 10), stolen bases (10 to 22), RBI (41 to 66) and runs scored (53 to 91).

Zero: Geovany Soto – C – ADP: 140.4 – FPR (-)

On the bright side, Soto’s line of 17 HR/ 46 R/ 54 RBI is nearly identical to the numbers he posted in 2010 (17/47/53). Unfortunately, his average dropped to .228 and his strikeout rate ballooned to 26.2%. Soto continues his pattern of booming even years (2008, 2010) and slumping odd years (2009, 2011). Luckily, next year is an even year.

Honorable Mention – Carlos Marmol – RP – ADP: 90 – FPR: 173

Chicago White Sox:

Hero: Sergio Santos – RP – ADP: (-) – FPR: 126

When the 2011 season began, Matt Thornton was penciled in to the White Sox closer spot. After posting an 8.64 ERA over the opening month of the season, and blowing four saves while recording none, Santos stepped in and was superb. Santos finished the season with 30 saves, good enough for eighth in the AL. He also fanned an impressive 13.07 batters per nine innings pitched.

Zero: Adam Dunn – DH/1B – ADP: 37.3 – FPR (-)

The Sox had a number of candidates for this spot, but Dunn was taken the earliest of them all on average. After seven consecutive seasons with at least 38 HR and 92 RBI, Dunn belted only 11 with 42 RBI. When you take a guy like Dunn, you know that he is a free-swinger with a potentially damaging batting average (.243 lifetime), but what you don’t expect is a slugger with more holes in his swing than Swiss cheese. Dunn batted .159 this season with 177 strikeouts. That is the lowest average and most strikeouts for any player with at least 450 plate appearances – EVER.

Honorable Mention: Alex Rios – OF – ADP: 54.5 – FPR (-)

Cincinnati Reds:

Hero: Johnny Cueto – SP – ADP 201.9 – FPR: 102

Cueto has been quietly improving into a top-30 fantasy option at pitcher. In 2011, he posted a career-low 2.31 ERA, and tossed three complete games. His HR/9 rate has dropped in every season since his rookie year (2008), and he walked a career-low 2.70 batters per 9.

Zero: Edinson Volquez – SP – ADP: 197.8 – FPR: (-)

In his first season with the Reds, Volquez won 17 games and fanned 206 batters. Ever since, he has been struggling to put up numbers half as good, including this season when he finished with just five wins and a career-worst 5.71 ERA. After struggling through the first two-plus months of the season, Volquez was sent to the minors in May, and again in August.

Cleveland Indians:

Hero: Asdrubal Cabrera – SS – ADP: 216.8 – FPR: 40

After an injury plagued 2010, Cabrera exploded onto the scene in 2011 with 25 HR, 92 RBI and 87 runs (all career highs). The Venezuelan earned the Silver Slugger for shortstops in the AL, and finished as the third-rated SS in the fantasy world. Cabrera also swiped 17 bags, and is a candidate for the 20/20 club in 2012.

Zero: Shin-Soo Choo – OF – ADP: 36.2 – FPR: 355

Speaking of the 20/20 club, Choo had posted back-to-back campaigns with that milestone in 2009-10. After carrying his South Korean squad to the World Baseball Classic title last spring, Choo’s 2011 season was derailed by injuries, first to his back, then an abdominal strain. The 29 year-old only played in 85 games, and experienced a decrease in power due to his mid-season back problems. The good news is the Indians front office expects him to be fully recovered before the 2012 preseason begins.

Colorado Rockies:

Hero: Seth Smith – OF – ADP: 232.1 – FPR: 141

Since his rookie season in 2006, Seth Smith has been utilized more and more by the Rockies. This season saw his heaviest workload yet, with 533 plate appearances, up from 398 in 2010. Smith’s numbers aren’t flashy (15 HR/ 59 RBI/ 67 R), but his average is was a respectable .284, and he broke into double-digits in steals for the first time with 10. Smith is exactly the kind of late-round pick up that can make a huge impact.

Zero: Huston Street – RP – ADP:134.4 – FPR – 222

It was an up and down season for Street, who started lights-out before faltering in May with a 6.52 ERA for the month. He finished with a team-leading 29 saves, but was relegated to set-up man in favor of Raphael Betancourt down the stretch. Street has amassed 178 saves in his career for Colorado and Oakland, and should bounce back to serve his new west coast team, the San Diego Padres, well.

Detroit Tigers:

Hero: Justin Verlander – SP – ADP: 41.7 – FPR – 4

Come on, are you really surprised with this pick? True, Verlander was considered a top-10 pitcher before the season started, but his 2011 campaign was so impressive he had to be listed here. He finished as the highest-rated pitcher in the game, leading the AL in wins (24), innings pitched (251.0), strikeouts (250), ERA (2.40) and WHIP (0.92). The 28 year-old earned both the AL Cy Young Award, and the AL Most Valuable Player, a feat last accomplished by Roger Clemens in 1986.

Honorable Mention: Alex Avila – C – ADP: (-) – FPR: 109

Zero: Max Scherzer – SP – ADP: 102.6 – FPR: 243

This man is living proof that wins are a near-meaningless statistic for a pitcher. Scherzer finished the season 15-9 in a year when most of his statistics took a turn for the worse. The right-hander allowed more home runs, struck out fewer batters per 9, and had a higher ERA by almost a full point, yet his record improved from the 11-12 mark he posed in 2010.

Houston Astros:

Hero: Mark Melancon – RP – ADP: (-) – FPR: 143

Slim pickings here for both categories, as the Astros lost 106 games this season. Brandon Lyon seemed to have the closer position in his firm grasp early in the season, but an 11.48 ERA through early June opened the door for the 26 year-old Melancon. He doesn’t have the filthy out-pitch that most front offices covet in a closer, but he was solid enough to earn 20 saves in 25 opportunities.

Zero: Wandy Rodriguez – SP – ADP: 119 – FPR: 184

This may be slightly unfair to Way-Rod, because he pitched well enough to win a few more games this season if he were on a team with an offense. That being said, owning Rodriguez is a maddening enterprise because he will pitch like an ace for four games, and then blow up and single-handedly ruin a week for you. He had six games with five runs or more allowed this season, which resulted in six losses.

Kansas City Royals:

Hero: The Entire Outfield!

Alex Gordon – OF – ADP: 217.5 – FPR: 24

Melky Cabrera – OF – ADP: (-) – FPR: 23

Jeff Francoeur – OF – ADP: (-) – FPR: 38

All three players preformed well over their preseason projections, and all three pushed for 20/20 club status. Gordon returned to the form that put him on every fantasy player’s radar during his rookie campaign of 2006, batting .303 with 23 HR, 17 SB, 101 runs and 87 RBI – all career-high figures. Cabrera, not to be outdone, also supplied career numbers to the tune of a .305 average, 18 HR, 20 SB, 102 runs and 87 RBI. Francoeur’s numbers weren’t the best in his career, as it would be hard to top his two-and-a-half sterling seasons for the Braves from 2005-07, but still contributed a more than respectable .285 average, 20 HR, 77 runs and 87 RBI. His 22 steals far surpassed his previous single-season mark of eight.

Honorable Mention: Eric Hosmer – 1B – ADP: (-) – FPR: 81

Zero: Joakim Soria – RP – ADP: 82 – FPR: 199

By all accounts, Soria had a sub-par year in 2011. Seven blown saves, a 4.08 ERA, and a declining K/9 rate for the second consecutive season. His total saves fell from43 in 2010, when the Royals only amassed 67 wins total, to 28 this season for a 71 win team. His biggest problem was allowing the long-ball. His HR/9 rate jumped from 0.55 to 1.05, and HR/FB rate leapt from 6.7% to 10.4%.

Los Angeles Angels of Anaheim:

Hero: Howard Kendrick – 2B/OF/1B – ADP: 147 – FPR: 87

Kendrick may not have had a huge increase in value on paper, only rising 60 spots, but in doing so he has entered the realm of top-10 second basemen. Kendrick recorded eight more home runs and 19 more runs in 75 fewer plate appearances this season. He did strike out more often than in 2010, and his RBI numbers took a bit of a hit (from 75 to 63), but overall Kendrick proved to be a valuable asset among second-sackers.

Honorable Mention: Jered Weaver – SP – ADP:69.3 – FPR: 12

Zero: Vernon Wells – OF – ADP: 131.1 – FPR: (-)

It appears that age is starting to catch up to Wells. The 33 year-old outfielder saw his batting average dip to .218, a far cry from his .274 lifetime number. He also saw a marked increase in strikeout rate, climbing over three points from 13% to 16.8%, and a decrease in walk rate to a career-low 3.8%.

Los Angeles Dodgers:

Hero: Clayton Kershaw – SP – ADP: 39.7 – FPR: 5

In 2011, Kershaw took the next step from “promising up-and-comer” to “fantasy workhorse.” The young lefty led the league in wins (21), strikeouts (248), ERA (2.28) and WHIP (0.98). After allowing six runs in back-to-back contests in early June, Kershaw turned filthy; winning 15 of his last 19 contests. He held opponents to two runs or fewer in 17 of those games. Kershaw claimed the Cy Young and Golden Glove this season, and, at the ripe-old age of 23, should be in the conversation about top fantasy pitchers for the next decade or so.

Honorable Mention: Matt Kemp – OF – ADP: 26.5 – FPR: 1

Zero: Chad Billingsley – SP – ADP: 112.5 – FPR: 367

When the Dodgers took Clayton Kershaw in the 2006 draft, he was expected to quickly progress through the ranks of the minor league system and join a promising rookie named Billingsley as the one-two punch at the front of the rotation. Billingsley went 35-19 from 2006-08, and Kershaw was powering through the ranks. Both men look poised to achieve the great things the Dodger faithful expected of them, until Billingsley’s career went into neutral in 2009. Since the beginning of that season, Chad has posted a 35-33 record, including 11-11 last year. His innings pitched (188.0), K/9 rate (7.28) and ERA (4.21) were all four-year lows, while his strand rate fell to a career-worst 69.9%.

Honorable Mention: Jonathan Broxton – RP – ADP: 113.8 – FPR: (-)

Miami Marlins:

Hero: Emilio Bonafacio – OF/SS/3B – ADP: (-) – FPR: 56

This speed-demon for the re-branded Miami Marlins proved that he was a bona fide fantasy asset this season, finishing with a career-high 40 stolen bases, good enough for second in the NL. He also supplied a .296 average, 78 runs and 36 RBI, all of which are also career-high marks. Add that to his multi-positional eligibility, specifically shortstop and third base, and you have top-60 fantasy player. 2011 was the first season in which Bonafacio played in over 130 games, as health issues and depth chart positioning kept him off the field in previous seasons. Look for him to receive more regular playing time going forward – he earned it.

Zero: Hanley Ramirez – SS – ADP: 2.4 – FPR: 247

Since bursting onto the scene and claiming Rookie of the Year honors in 2006, Han-Ram has been among the top two fantasy options at one of the thinner positions, shortstop. Injuries to his elbow and back caused him to miss a few games early in the spring, then a shoulder injury in early August knocked him out for the remainder of the season. Despite his early struggles – he was batting just .200 with 17 RBI and four homers in late June – the Marlins were in contention at 55-55. Without Ramirez, the fish finished the season 18 games below .500, at 72-90.

Milwaukee Brewers:

Hero: John Axford – RP – ADP: 140.2 – FPR: 54

After a shaky March/April, Axford emerged as the most reliable closer in the National League. The lanky right-hander recorded 46 saves and a 1.95 ERA while appearing in 74 games. Control is still an issue for Axford, but his 3.05 BB/9 rate was dramatically better than the 4.16 rate he posted in 2010.

Zero: Casey McGehee – 3B – ADP: 90.7 – FPR: (-)

For a player who swatted 23 homers with 104 RBI in the previous season, 2011 must have been a crushing disappointment for McGehee. The up-and-coming third baseman completed this season with a .223 average, over 60 points lower than his .285 mark in 2010. He also saw a severe drop in HR (to 13) and RBI (to 67), while being relegated to platoon duties and a pinch-hit here and there.

Minnesota Twins:

Hero: Michael Cuddyer – OF/1B/2B – ADP: 190.6 – FPR: 94

Cuddyer has been a hard man to pin down when it comes to what to expect from him. That unpredictability has caused him to slide to the lower half of drafts, as he did again this season. Anyone who took a late-round flier on the 32 year-old utility man was rewarded with a respectable .271 average with 20 HR, 11 steals and 70 runs/RBI. Not a season that will cause many to stand up and take notice, but no doubt a solid contributor to any fantasy squad, especially due to his multi-positional eligibility. In fact, those numbers were solid enough to rank Cuddyer as the eighth-best second basemen for the 2011 season – not to shabby.

Zero: Joe Mauer – C/1B – ADP: 28.2 – FPR: 490

What can $23 million get you? The answer is, of course, 82 games played, three home runs and 30 RBI. Mauer’s history of leg injuries is causing many baseball minds to call for his ouster from behind the plate. For many, designated hitter may even be the preferred move. After all, he is the only catcher to ever win three batting titles, why not move him to a position where his legs can stay fresh? The next dilemma facing the fantasy players is, will the power ever return? Mauer belted 28 home runs in 138 games to claim the AL MVP award in 2009; In the 219 games since, he has managed just 12.

Honorable Mention: Francisco Liriano – SP – ADP: 89.4 – FPR (-)

New York Mets:

Hero: Jose Reyes – SS – ADP: 35.5 – FPR: 17

Reyes may not have been able to stay on the field again this season- a feat he hasn’t accomplished since 2008- but when he was on the field, he was electric. Reyes batted a career-best .337 to lead the NL, while also finishing top-10 in the league in runs (101, 5th) and stolen bases (39, 6th). The run and stolen base numbers are especially impressive, since he missed 38 games due to a hamstring injury. If he can stay health in Miami in 2012, look for numbers reminiscent of 2005-2008 when he averaged 55+ SB and 110+ runs scored.

Zero: David Wright – 3B – ADP: 14.3 – FPR: 207

So it was not all smiles on the left side of the Mets’ infield. Wright battled back problems for most of the 2011 season, whether or not he was in the lineup. He played only 102 games, the lowest total since his rookie campaign of 2004. Upon returning from a missed month-and-a-half, Wright was on fire in July (.455, 12 RBI in ten games), but fizzled down the stretch, batting .245 in August and a pathetic .218 in September.

New York Yankees:

Hero: Curtis Granderson – OF – ADP: 91.6 – FPR: 6

Despite the numbers put up by the vaunted Yankee offense, there wasn’t a lot of competition for this spot. Granderson bloomed into a top-10 fantasy player overall in his second season in the pinstripes, leading the American League in RBI (119) and runs scored (136). The 30 year-old also hit 41 HR, a career-high, and stole 25 bases, one off his career-high. His .262 average leaves something to be desired, but it is an improvement over the .247 line he posted in 2010.

Honorable Mention: Mariano Rivera – RP – ADP: 74 – FPR: 59

Zero: Phil Hughes – SP – ADP: 156.8 – FPR: 916

Hughes started only 14 games in 2011, thanks to a shoulder issue that cost him over two months of the season. Hughes showed up to camp out of shape after his breakout All-Star campaign in 2010. It showed from day one that he had put less preparation into his off-season, as evidenced by a two mph drop on his fastball velocity. When Hughes was in the rotation, he was much more hit-able than in 2010 allowing a .304 BABIP and seeing his strikeout rate cut in half from 10.24 to 5.67 K/9.

Honorable Mention: Alex Rodriguez – 3B – ADP: 18.7 – FPR: 189

Oakland Athletics:

Hero: Coco Crisp – OF – ADP: 223 – FPR: 55

Crisp proved that he was more than just another funny baseball name in 2011, stealing 49 bases to lead the American League. Despite the A’s offensive shortcomings, Crisp also managed to score 69 runs and drive in 54 more. Without much upside, the 32 year-old journeyman can surely provide a steady stream of steals, as he has whenever given regular playing time in his career.

Honorable Mention: Gio Gonzalez – SP – ADP: 202.9 – FPR: 127

Zero: Andrew Bailey – RP – ADP: 147 – FPR: 265

Bailey actually performed at about the same level in 2010 and 2011, if you look just at saves. He pitched in a similar number of contests (47 compared to 42), similar number of innings (49.0 compared to 41.2) and struck out a similar number of batters (42 compared to 41). Where Bailey did stumble, was in allowing runs to score. His ERA climbed to 3.24 after finishing with a 1.47 in 2010. His strand rate dropped from a 91.1% to 67.0% this season, and the young right-hander will have to fare better than that if he wants to hold down the closer spot in Oakland.

Philadelphia Phillies:

Hero: Cole Hamels – SP – ADP: 65 – FPR: 29

Despite not having the hardware to back up this claim, Hamels had his best professional season in 2011. His 2.79 ERA and 0.99 WHIP were the best of his career, and both ranked in the top-10 in the NL at sixth and second, respectively. The southpaw also lowered his walk-rate to a career-low 1.83 BB/9. Much of the credit for his improvement has been given to Roy Halladay, for teaching Hamels the cut fastball. He used that cutter 12% of the time this season, giving him a viable third pitch to go with his solid fastball and devastating change-up.

Honorable Mention: Ryan Madson – RP – ADP: 221.1 – FPR: 118

Zero: Chase Utley – 2B – ADP: 57.3 – FPR: 261

Utley entered 2011 with a knee problem, and never really got his feet under him. It was a second consecutive season shortened by injury, and with diminished returns. His 11 home runs were a career-low, and his .259 average was well below his .290 lifetime average. Absent from the lineup entirely until late May, Utley seemed to be back to his old-self, batting over .290 for June and July before tapering off at the end of the season. With a full off-season to recuperate the knee, Utley may return to pre-2010 output, or he could become the latest player to have a promising career derailed by a nagging injury.

Pittsburgh Pirates:

Hero: Neil Walker – 2B – ADP: 164.5 – FPR: 134

Walker was a favorite sleeper-pick in many 2011 drafts, and he lived up to that billing with a solid season. His power wasn’t as prodigious as predicted, but through his run and RBI production he slid into the list of the top-10 second basemen. Despite a drop in batting average (from .296 to .273), Walker improved both his walk rate (up a full point to 8.2%) and strikeout rate (down almost a full point to 16.9%).

Zero: Pedro Alvarez – 3B – ADP: 117.6 – FPR: 1104

Another popular sleeper pick, Alvarez did nothing but disappoint in 2011. The big knock on Alvarez was his batting average, which is typically the issue with mashers of his type. After a .256 mark in 2010, Alvarez dipped below the Mendoza line to .191 over 74 games in 2011. He hit just four home runs in 262 at-bats after swatting 16 in 386 AB in 2010. Alvarez spent over a month in the minor leagues in 2011, spending a chunk of June/July and a chunk of August/September relegated to triple-A.

San Diego Padres:

Hero: Cameron Maybin – OF – ADP: (-) – FPR: 87

One-time top prospect for the Marlins, it took a change of scenery for the speedy centerfielder to blossom into the base-stealing menace he was projected to be. Maybin stole 40 bases in 2011, enough to rank him second in the NL. A batting average of .264 leaves room for improvement, but Maybin has earned a place in the everyday lineup for the Padres, where the power and run production can develop. He may never reach the 20/40 projections originally heaped upon him, especially in spacious Petco Park, but he should be around the 40 stolen base level as long as he can remain healthy.

Honorable Mention: Corey Luebke – SP – ADP: (-) – FPR: 150

Zero: Matt Latos – SP – ADP: 70 – FPR: 130

Did Latos suffer from the seldom heard of junior slump, or was he a victim of overuse catching up with him? Latos’ innings pitched jumped from123 in 2009 to 184.2 in 2010. In turn, his ERA in the early months of the 2011 season fluctuated between 3.50 and 4.90, well above the 2.92 mark from 2010. His record also fell from 14-10 to 9-14. True, he did improve as the season wore on, turning in his best monthly ERA in September (1.95), but the effects of arm fatigue were obvious early in the season.

San Francisco Giants:

Hero: Madison Bumgarner – SP – ADP: 179.7 – FPR: 91

Despite a rocky start leading to a 6.17 ERA for March/April, Bumgarner put together a successful second season. He also developed into a more overpowering pitcher, as his K/9 rate jumped from 6.97 to 8.40. Perhaps the biggest key for Bumgarner was limiting home runs. The 22 year-old allowed only 12 HR in 204.2 innings this season, much better than the 11 served up in 111 innings during the 2010 season.

Zero: Jonathan Sanchez – SP – ADP: 127.4 – FPS: (-)

Long known as a guy with a less-than favorable walk rate, that number jumped to 5.86 BB/9 in 2011. Sanchez ERA rose from 3.07 to 4.26, mostly due to that decline in control. On the bright side, he was able to limit home runs to some degree, and his K/9 rate remained above 9, but if he cannot reign in the walks, he will struggle to find any sort of success on the mound.

Seattle Mariners:

Hero: Michael Pineda – SP – ADP: 228.5 – FPR: 136

Pineda enjoyed a successful rookie campaign, and the Mariners did an incredible job of handling the young power pitcher. Eliminated from playoff contention, Seattle slowly phased Pineda out of the rotation over the last six weeks of the season, effectively reducing his pitching load by at least four starts, or around 20 innings. Pineda has a mid to upper 90’s heater and a devastating slider, but will need to make use of his change up more in order to keep batters guessing. A combination of his 9-10 record, and the fact he wasn’t on a “contender” probably cost Pineda the Rookie of the Year award in the AL.

Zero: Felix Hernandez – SP – ADP: 16.1 – FPR: 84

It is crazy to think that King Felix is only 25 years-old. After all, he has six consecutive seasons with at least 30 starts, and three consecutive seasons with 200+ strikeouts. Hernandez became the first pitcher with a losing record to ever claim the Cy Young in 2010, proving that wins aren’t the only thing that matters to the voters. While Hernandez didn’t fall apart this season, he also did not live up to the hype. His BABIP rose from .263 to .307, and his ERA jumped from 2.27 to 3.47. His HR/FB rate also rose by a full point, to 9.5%. It may be unfair to expect much better numbers from a pitcher, but Felix Hernandez isn’t just any pitcher. He was taken as the third starting pitcher off the board in most drafts, but his performance ranked him 19th when all was said and done.

St. Louis Cardinals:

Hero: Lance Berkman – OF/1B – ADP: 209.5 – FPR: 36

Berkman was once a key piece of the Astro’s “Killer B’s” lineup, also featuring Craig Biggio and Jeff Bagwell. After a less-than stellar season split between the Astros and Yankees, many a fantasy player wrote Berkman off as washed-up. Fortunately, the Cardinals didn’t think so, as they not only invested in the 35 year-old slugger, but took the time to change his position to give him an everyday spot in the lineup. Berkman responded quite nicely, finishing 9th in the NL in home runs (31) to help lead St. Louis to the World Series.

Zero: Matt Holliday – OF – ADP: 18.6 – FPR: 89

Much like Felix Hernandez above, Holliday didn’t completely bomb in 2011, but he also did not live up to his expectations. An appendectomy, back issues, leg problems and a few hand injuries marred the 2011 campaign for the 31 year-old. His strikeout rate ballooned to 18%, the highest since his rookie season, and his batting average fell below .300 for the first time in six years. His two stolen bases were also a career-low.

Honorable Mention – Chris Carpenter – ADP: 50.4 – FPR: 171

Tampa Bay Rays:

Hero: James Shields – SP – ADP: 209.4 – FPR: 22

Shields bounced back from the worst season of his career in 2010 with the best in 2011. He finished first in the AL in complete games, with 11, and finished top-10 in strikeouts (3rd, 225), ERA (3rd, 2.82) and WHIP (5th, 1.04). The former 16th round pick finished as the sixth best pitcher overall in fantasy.

Zero: Evan Longoria – 3B – ADP: 5.2 – FPR: 125

There were both positives and negatives to Longoria’s 2011 campaign. On the good side, Longoria hit nine more home runs in 18 fewer games, and his walk and strikeout rates both improved. On the bad side, his batting average tumbled 50 points to a career-low of .244. Also, the speed that made him one of the few truly elite third basemen, was nowhere to be seen, as his stolen base numbers decreased from 15 in 2010 to only three in 2011.

Texas Rangers:

Hero: Michael Young – DH/1B/3B/2B - ADP: 73.2 – FPR: 28

Young didn’t have any gaudy numbers this season other than one, his .338 batting average. He also dramatically cut his strikeout rate from a 15% career figure to 11.3% in 2011. With all those hits, Young also generated a career-high 106 RBI to go along with 88 runs. His home run number declined for the third straight season to 11, but he makes up for that deficiency with his all-around contributions.

Honorable Mention: C.J. Wilson – SP – ADP: 189.7 – FPR: 49

Zero: Nelson Cruz – OF – ADP: 26.1 – FPR: 90

Remember when Cruz hit a home run in each of the first four games of the 2011 season? Or when he belted six homers in six days during the ALCS against the Tigers? Cruz has some major power potential, that much is certain, but he will never live up to high draft status if he can’t stay on the field. Leg injuries caused Cruz to miss stretches of 2011, just as they did in 2010 and 2009. In fact, Cruz has never played more than 140 games in a professional season.

Toronto Blue Jays:

Hero: Ricky Romero – SP – ADP: 194.3 – FPR: 57

Romero has improved in each of his three major-league seasons, and the fantasy community has finally taken notice. Romero quietly put together a top-15 season for a pitcher, by finishing top-10 in the AL in several statistical categories: Wins (15, 10th), innings pitched (225.0, 8th), ERA (2.92, 6th) and complete games (4, 6th). While his BABIP of .242 is unsustainable over the long haul, look for Romero to settle in between his output from 2010 and 2011.

Honorable Mention: Jose Bautista – 3B/OF – ADP: 33 – FPR: 9

Zero: Rajai Davis – OF – ADP: 137.4 – FPR: 266

Another speedy outfielder bothered by hamstring issues. Davis did manage to swipe 34 bags in 95 games, but his .238 average relegated him to pinch-running duties down the stretch. After missing the first six weeks of the season with a hamstring issue, Davis struggled to find rhythm at the plate. Davis could be the next 60-base stealer if he is ever able to stay on the field, but he will have to improve on the 18.1% K rate from 2011 in order to be considered a viable lead-off candidate for any team.

Washington Nationals:

Hero: Michael Morse – 1B/OF – ADP: 221.3 – FPR: 43

After several “cups of coffee,” Morse finally received a full season of regular playing time. The 29 year-old outfielder responded with a season that blew his previous career-high numbers out of the water: 31 HR, 95 RBI, 73 runs and a .303 average. Morse, an afterthought in most drafts, and undrafted in the rest, finished as the 9th ranked first baseman and 14th ranked outfielder overall.

Honorable Mention: Drew Storen – RP – ADP: 170.2 – FPR: 53

Zero: Jayson Werth – OF – ADP: 47.5 – FPR: 175

Werth came over to the Nationals as a free agent after spending four phenomenal seasons with division-rival Philadelphia. Looking back on the 2011 season, it would appear the Phillies pulled a fast one on Washington, practically rolling a large wooden Jayson Werth to the front gate while soldiers waited within the edifice until nighttime to make their move. Mythical/Historical allusions aside, Werth struggled without a power bat to protect him in the lineup, finishing with a .232 average, and reduced but still respectable home run (20) and stolen base (19) numbers. Werth batted in every slot but 7th or 8th this season. On the bright side, Ryan Zimmerman figures to be healthy by 2012 spring training, which should result in a more predictable lineup for every Nat, not just the floundering Werth.

Monday, June 13, 2011


So, I know, it's been a while since my last post.
I wanted my next blog to be about music. It took a while for me to figure out what that would be. I started scrambling for new albums that released, anything that would inspire me to write. Couldn't come up with anything that really moved me. So I thought... I'm seeing Phish on June 11th, a band that used to be my favorite, so let's wait until then and write about something I care about that isn't forced.

Quick recap: the last time I went to a Phish show was July of 2001. I went with my sister, Michele, and two of her friends. I remember this concert well because it was AWESOME. The encore ended with a "Good Times, Bad Times" Led Zeppelin cover and fireworks exploding in the sky just above the arena. I was 17 at the time and much more of a phish-head back then. Probably because I listened to them all the time and had what seemed like 30 of their CDs. I'd also seen them I think about 5 or so times at that point and my screen name was BadPhishBabe (a reference to both Phish and Sublime). Nowadays, I find myself skipping over a lot of Phish songs on my iPod, but still turning up the volume on my forever-faves. OK, onto the concert...

Last Saturday, I finally saw Phish for the first time in 10 years (with Kyle, your sports expert) and bounced around the (lawn).
There really isn't anything better than being outside on a beautiful summer night, beer in hand, person you love standing next to you, jamming out to great music. I have to say though that we probably didn't love the concert as much as several of the people around us, who were enjoying more than just a beer.

Phish came onstage at about 7:45. They played two sets and an encore. The first set was fairly short, but included "Wilson," which was good enough for me. They took a long break in the middle of the sets to do their thing backstage, while I was getting anxious for them to return. Subtracting the half-hour-or-so break in the middle, they played for 3 hours. We didn't leave until 11:15. Think about that... most shows you go to, the band plays for about 2 hours. Two and a half if you're lucky. These guys are almost 50 and rocking harder and better than most other bands, half their age. The reason? Probably because they have a ton of material to choose from for each show, have a huge following, and only grace the stage on the years they feel like it (meaning, they barely play shows anymore).

Second set. It's now dark out. Enter balloons and glow sticks being thrown around the audience. Phish starts off with "Birds of a Feather," one of my favorites, then "Tweezer," followed by a lot of songs I didn't know. Was it that I hadn't heard these songs before, or that my old phish-head self was forgetting some of their music?! Not sure. One of the last songs in this set was "Wading in the Velvet Sea," another one of my favorites. As much as these guys rock out on their instruments, you can tell that vocals kind of play a backseat. They were all singing along to "Wading," but it was as if they just were playing it for the fans. Or maybe they were just a little tired since they'd been playing forever!

Overall, it was great to see Phish rocking out again. Don't think I'd go to another show in the near future, but they'll always be a band I respect because of their originality and amazing musical talent.

" won't find moments in a box..."


Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Fantasy Forecast: Shortstop

At most positions there is a consolation prize. By that, I mean there is always a player that you don't mind taking should you miss out on the top-shelf talent to fill that particular roster spot. Shortstop is the one area where that is not true.

There are two schools of thought on how to approach a thin position: One is make sure you get your guy early, and the other is to look for someone from the remaining pool that won't kill you in too many categories (like someone who will hit for decent average and steal some bags despite anemic power numbers).

I, for one, am a positional scarcity guy. When you get one of the top two shortstops, you then operate from a position of strength knowing that you don't have a roster spot that is a drain by default. You also don't have to check the box scores with cautious optimism every day, only to see that Steven Drew went 0-for-5 with four strikeouts.

1. Hanley Ramirez - Florida Marlins I bet they are kicking themselves in Boston for letting this kid get out of town six years ago. After an extremely short cup-of-coffee with the Red Sox in 2005 (two at-bats, two strikeouts), Ramirez, among others, was dealt to Florida in the Josh Beckett/Mike Lowell deal. Ever since he has been averaging 24.8 HR/112.4 runs/77.8 RBI/39.2 steals per season as the greatest shortstop in the game. He won a Rookie of the Year award, a batting title, and was selected to three All-Star games.
If he is available when you pick, and Albert Pujols isn't, you would have to be crazy not to take him.

2. Troy Tulowitzki - Colorado Rockies How is this for some pop from the shortstop? Tulo smacked 15 homers last season, in September alone! That is more than all but four shortstops hit ALL SEASON. In every season in which he played in more than 120 games, Troy has hit at least 24 long balls with at least 92 RBI. The numbers from his torrid final month last season have inflated his value slightly, but I believe a season of 29 HR, 110 runs, 88 RBI and 13 steals sounds very attainable for Tulo.

3. Jose Reyes - New York Mets If this were 2007, I would be very excited about landing Reyes to fill my SS slot, but ever since the 27 year-old hit 19 HR and tallied 81 RBI that season his power numbers have been in decline. Sure, his speed is elite, and he very well may return to the 100+ run and 50+ steal plateaus of his past, but that all depends upon him staying healthy and in the lineup. I look for Reyes to finish with an average around .280 with 118 runs, 62 RBI and 48 steals. I would be surprised if he hits more than 15 home runs.

4. Derek Jeter - New York Yankees The Captain will surpass the 3,000 hit plateau this season, a feat accomplished by only 27 men before him, 25 of which are in the Hall of Fame. A modest season of 150 hits would land him in the top-20 of all time for hits, a feat to be sure. At 36 years old, Jeter is in the twilight of his career, but I don't think he will go gently into that good night. He will have at least one more "Derek Jeter-like" season of 117 runs, 74 RBI and 14 homers, but his batting average (.282) and stolen base (16) numbers will fall from his career norms of .300+ and 20+.

5. Jimmy Rollins - Philadelphia Phillies Since J-Roll won the NL MVP award in 2007, his performance has been erratic to say the least. One disappointing sign is that his batting average has been in steady decline since that season, falling to a career-low .243 in his injury-plagued 2010 campaign in which he only played in 88 games. I look for Jimmy to bounce back in 2011 and post an average closer to his career .273. He may only hit 15 homers, but 108 runs and 72 RBI are not out of the question to go along with his 33 steals.

6. Alexei Ramirez - Chicago White Sox Sexy-Alexei has been an oft-overlooked option in the middle infield since his first full-time season in the bigs in 2008. He has been a consistent 15 HR/10 SB guy, with a solid career average of .281, and he also routinely drives in around 70 runs. None of his numbers point to a jump in any categories, especially at age 29, but he could surprise with a 25 HR/20 steal season. Even if he doesn't, 15/15 with 80 runs and 65 RBI is almost a given, so why not jump on one of the few reliable options left?

7. Elvis Andrus - Texas Rangers The 22 year-old Andrus can fly on the base paths, and in that Rangers lineup he should be penciled in for 75 runs at least. Andrus is primed to break out one of these years, but his break out will be more along the lines of 50 stolen bases, not 10 homers. Before he went yard this week, Andrus hadn't homered since September of 2009, so draft him expecting no pop, and take any long balls as a bonus. Elvis' on-base percentage rose last season (.329 to .342), but so did his strikeout numbers (77 to 96). If he can curtail the whiffs, he could be primed to hit in the neighborhood of .290 with 103 runs and 57 RBI. For a player that is also capable of swiping 40+ bags, that isn't too bad.

8. Stephen Drew - Arizona Diamondbacks I threw a barb out there at Drew in the lead to this article, but he still makes my list of top shortstops, does that tell you anything about the depth at this position? Drew is another player with a tantalizing season in his past (2008) but pretty mediocre numbers beyond that. Will you get the Drew that batted .291 in his career year, or the Drew that batted .238 the season before? I look for Drew to finish with 83 runs, 61 RBI, and 15 dingers. An average in the low .270's to go along with 10 steals may be slightly optimistic, but is possible.

9. Ian Desmond - Washington Nationals Desmond is another youngster to make the list with limited history to use to project. He certainly has a bit of life in his bat, swatting 10 homers in his first season of full-time duty, and he has some wheels too (17 steals). If he can keep his average up in the .270 range, he could surprise with 74 RBI, 66 runs, 24 steals and 15 HR.

10. Rafael Furcal - Los Angeles Dodgers Honestly, there are about six players I considered sliding into this final slot, but I went with Furcal due to his proven track record. He hit eight homers in just 97 games last season, and has surpassed the 12 HR plateau for four consecutive years from 2003-07, so double-digit long ball numbers is a probability. The main problem is he has only played 150 games once in the last four seasons. Should he stay on the field, I have him penciled in for 78 runs, 59 RBI and 25 steals, all to go with a .272 average.


Monday, April 4, 2011

Fantasy Forecast: Third Base

Third base has historically been one of the stronger and deeper positions on a fantasy roster. That pattern does NOT hold for this season, where there is a drop off after the first five or six options, and then a morass underachievers from 2010, and unproven candidates who may, or may not break out.

I apologize to my readers for getting this out so late, but I will have each of the remaining positions (SS, OF, SP, RP) up by the end of the week, in case you are in a league that drafts late, or are just looking for some insight before scouring the waiver wires.

1. Evan Longoria - Tampa Bay Rays Despite the recent oblique strain which has landed him on the disabled list for the immediate future, Longoria remains the cream of the third basemen crop. His power numbers did dip a bit last season (from 33 HR to 22), but that seems like an aberration, as his HR/Fly Ball ratio slipped to a paltry 11 percent. All the other numbers are headed in the right direction, and he should bounce back from this injury to finish as the top dog at the hot corner. I project 31 HR, 103 runs and 112 RBI, and a chance at double-digit steals, which sets him a cut above the other options.

2. David Wright - New York Mets Unlike Longoria, Wright's power returned last season (29 HR) after posting a career-low 10 homers in the inaugural season at Citi Field. Other than last season, Wright has consistently posted 25+ HR/100+ RBI/90+ run seasons since his first full-time season in 2005, so don't look for that to stop now. One negative to be aware of, Wright's strikeout numbers have risen in each of the last four seasons, as the Mets have gotten worse and worse, and he has felt the weight of the team more heavily on his shoulders. Don't let that stat deter you from taking what is sure to be one of the few elite options at the position. Look for 33 HR, 95 runs and 108 RBI.

3. Ryan Zimmerman - Washington Nationals A few years ago, Zim was touted as the poor-man's David Wright, going late or undrafted in most leagues, but posting solid power and average totals that surely pleased whoever took a flier on the young third baseman. Now, he stands on his own as one of the most solid options to fill the position. His batting average has risen in each of the past three seasons, and despite having slightly less pop and speed than the first two candidates, Zim should remain among the best in the league with a .309 average, 26 HR and 101 RBI.

4. Alex Rodriguez - New York Yankees He isn't the sure-fire first rounder he was over the past decade, but the 35 year-old Yankee deserves mention here as the final elite option at the hot corner. The average and power have slipped the past few seasons, and with his injury history he may never steal 15+ bags again, but the aging star should still have a few good seasons left in him. I expect at least 30 HR, and 115 RBI if he stays healthy, but low runs scored (82) and batting average (.272) projections keep him from moving higher.

5. Jose Bautista - Toronto Blue Jays Last season's home run king had a very middling start to his seven year career, never posting more than 16 homers before exploding for 54 bombs last season. Much has been made of an overhaul of his approach at the plate, and I, for one, am a believer. Bautista is a dead-pull hitter and he should continue to pepper the left field seats with souvenirs in 2011, but he will most likely hurt you in batting average, although he should finish above his career mark of .245. I expect 46 HR, and 117 RBI and 99 runs.

6. Adrian Beltre - Texas Rangers After a one-year stop in Boston, Beltre moves to the Ballpark at Arlington after enjoying his best season since posting a .334 average with 48 dingers in his last season in Los Angeles in 2004. While not having to clear the Green Monster might result in a bump in his power numbers, look for the batting average to regress to closer to his career average of .275, as the only two seasons in which he topped .300 were contract years. Expect a 25/95/85 (HR/RBI/R) kind of season from Beltre.

7. Casey McGehee - Milwaukee Brewers McGehee posted 23 HR and 104 RBI in 2010 batting behind the duo of Ryan Braun and Prince Fielder. For his first full-time season in the bigs (157 games played) those are very respectable numbers, and very repeatable numbers in that lineup. McGehee is 28, so he is still in his prime years, and he showed decent skill at adjusting to counter the adjustments made by pitchers after his breakout year in 2009. I expect a .290 average with 28 homers, 77 runs and 113 RBI.

8. Aramis Ramirez - Chicago Cubs Ramirez fought through an injured thumb for the first half of 2010, batting just .207 with 10 home runs before the All-Star Break. He came on strong in the second half, and has shown that he is a viable candidate to bounce back to his career norms if he can stay healthy. He could make a push for 30 long balls to go along with 100+ RBI and 80+ runs. Look for his average to rebound to the .280 plateau.

9. Pablo Sandoval - San Francisco Giants The Kung-Fu Panda had a disappointing 2010 campaign, but a rigorous off-season training program has in tremendous shape and primed to bounce back. Sandoval, who had never picked up a weight before this winter according to a recent ESPN the Magazine article, is capable of batting over .320, as he did in his break-out 2009 campaign (.330). I anticipate a return to his 2009 levels, with 28 HR, 77 runs and 98 RBI - Skadoosh.

10. Pedro Alvarez - Pittsburgh Pirates A mid-season call-up last season, Alvarez swatted 16 HR in 95 games, a very promising start for the 24 year-old rookie. Not as promising was the fact that he struck out in over a third of his at-bats (119 whiffs in 347 AB). Obviously, he will have to adjust to big-league pitching in order to avoid becoming the next Mark Reynolds, but his minor league numbers hint that he should be slightly less K-happy (27.8 percent of his 707 ABs). I think Pedro will turn in a solid sophomore campaign with 29 homers, 83 RBI and 75 runs scored.

~ K.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spring 2011 Movie Preview

In the hopes of good movies actually coming out this year, below is your movie preview for this Spring (which technically starts on March 20th, but I've added in a couple movies that have already or will release before that date). There are some exciting movies to look forward to later this year, such as "The Smurfs," scheduled to release on August 3rd, and then some. For now though, here's your preview of some movies to anticipate within the next several months.

Please note: very few movies have been excluded from the lists below.

More important note: I obviously haven't seen these movies yet, unfortunately, and therefore can't recommend any of them to you. I'm just relaying the information., i.e., disclaimer: pay $11 at your own risk.

If you like Dramas / Dramedies (none of these are standing out to me at the moment, but I could be mistaken... there might be a real gem somewhere in this mix):
- Jane Eyre, March 11th (like the book)
- Certified Copy, March 11th
- The Lincoln Lawyer, March 18th
- Desert Flower, March 18th
- Winter in Wartime, March 18th
- The 5th Quarter, March 25th
- Peep World, March 25th
- Hesher, April (exact date TBD)
- A Little Help, April (exact date TBD)
- The Last Godfather, April 1st (supposed to be a comedy... hmmm)
- Trust, April 1st
- The Princess of Montpensier, April 1st
- The Mighty Macs, April 1st (like The Mighty Ducks)
- Water for Elephants, April 22nd
- That's What I Am, April 29th
- Sympathy for Delicious, April 29th
- Daydream Nation, May (exact date TBD)
- Something Borrowed, May 6th
- The Beaver, May 6th
- There Be Dragons, May 6th
- Midnight in Paris, May 20th
- The Tree of Life, May 27th
- Beginners, June 3rd

If you like Comedies / Rom Coms (some of these actually look promising): 
- Paul, March 18th (ET's long lost brother)
- Win, Win, March 18th 
- Super, April 1st 
- Your Highness, April 8th
- Arthur, April 8th
- Ceremony, April 8th
- Henry's Crime, April 8th
- Meet Monica Velour, April 8th
- Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star, April 22nd
- POM Wonderful Presents: The Greatest Movie Ever Sold, April 22nd (Super Size Me guy's next logical step)
- Prom, April 29th (I guess you can never have too many dumb high school movies?)
- Bridesmaids, May 13th
- The Hangover 2, May 26th (please be as entertaining as the original!)

If you like Suspense / Horror:
- Mother's Day, April 1st
- Insidious, April 1st
- Rubber, April 1st
- Scream 4, April 15th (ghostface strikes again, 10 years later... whatever, say what you will... I'm in!)
- Dylan Dog: Dead of Night, April 29th
If you like Action / Thrillers:
- The Adjustment Bureau, March 4th
- Battle: Los Angeles, March 11th
- Kill the Irishman, March 11th
- Sucker Punch, March 25th
- DAM 999, April 1st
- Source Code, April 1st 
- Hanna, April 8th
- Haywire, April 22nd 
- Apollo 18, April 22nd 
- Intent, April 22nd 
- Priest, May 13th 
- Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides, May 20th
- One for the Money, June 3rd 
- X-Men: First Class, June 3rd (aka X-Men 5, is also a prequel)
- Super 8, June 10th (also releasing in IMAX theaters... SciFi film by J.J. Abrams and Steven Spielberg)
- Green Lantern, June 17th (even if you don't like action/comic/superhero movies, watching Ryan Reynolds (and Blake Lively and Peter Sarsgaard) for two hours can't be a bad idea)

If you like Adventure / Sci-Fi / Animation: 
- Hop, April 1st 
- Born to be Wild, April 8th 
- African Cats, April 22nd 
- Hoodwinked Too! Hood vs. Evil, April 29th
- Thor, May 6th
- Kung Fu Panda 2, May 20th 
- Mr. Popper's Penguins, June 17th (like the book) 

If you like bad movies:
- Fast Five, April 19th (also known as Fast and the Furious 5 too many)

Anything you're looking forward to?


    Wednesday, February 23, 2011

    Fantasy Forecast : Second Base

    Second base has typically been one of the most shallow positions in the fantasy baseball world, right up there with shortstop. Most middle infielders can provide speed, but their best assets are typically the glove, which gets little or no reward in the vast majority of fantasy formats. There are two names that jump to the forefront in the fantasy second base conversation, but after that upper echelon, for the first time in recent memory, there is a decent crop of players that I can't say I'd be disappointed to end up with.

    So let's jump right in to the rankings.

    1. Robinson Cano - New York Yankees Cano has turned in back-to-back 200+ hit/25+ HR seasons, very impressive for a second basemen. Roby has emerged as the premier talent at second base, and it doesn't hurt that he plays in a Yankee lineup that will undoubtedly score runs in bunches.
    Expect a .310+ average with 100 runs scored, 100 RBI, and 26 homers.

    2. Chase Utley - Philadelphia Phillies A thumb injury cut a month-and-a-half out of Chase's 2010 campaign, and hurt his numbers as he rushed back too soon and struggled through August (.208 BA, 0 HR). Utley has become a more patient batter, setting a career high for walks with 88 in 2009, and was on pace to finish near that number again last season (65 in 115 games).
    I look for Utley to bounce back this season, and return to the 30 homer/ 100 RBI levels of 2008 and 2009. He should also score around 100, and swipe 20 bags with a batting average over .280.

    3. Dan Uggla - Atlanta Braves Uggla has been a masher ever since his rookie season of 2006, when he had his career-low of 27 long balls. He has topped the 30 HR plateau in each of the previous four seasons, and consistently both drives-in and scores around 90 runs per season.
    The main drawback for Uggla is that batting average. Will he hit around his career-high .287 that he posted in 2010? Or will he hit closer to the sub .250 averages he posted in 2007 and 2009?
    I think he winds up in the neighborhood of .265, but benefits from a move to Turner Field with 36 HR and 110 RBI to go along with 95 runs scored.

    4. Dustin Pedroia - Boston Red Sox Another player returning from an injury in 2010 is Pedroia, who was the recipient of a screw in his foot. Playing just 75 games last year, taking Dustin this high may feel like a bit of a gamble, and you'd be right to assume that. Pedroia has never hit more than 17 homers, or driven in more than 83 runs. He makes up for that production in his runs scored and stolen base numbers, and sports a .305 career batting average.
    Look for Dustin to finish with 16 HR, 115 runs scored, 75 RBI and 25 steals.

    5. Ian Kinsler - Texas Rangers Speaking of an injury liability, Kinsler has never played in more than 145 games in a season in his five-year career, playing in just 103 last season due to an ankle injury in spring training.
    Kinsler showed his 30 HR/30 SB potential in 2009, and a return to those numbers is not out of the question. I anticipate Ian to finish with 26 long balls and 29 steals, as well as 90+ runs scored, a batting average around .275 and 70 RBI.

    6. Brandon Phillips - Cincinnati Reds Phillips may never get back to that 30/30 plateau that he surpassed in 2007, but he should be a 20/20 guy after a somewhat disappointing 18/16 season in 2010.
    Brandon batted an abysmal .246 with runners in scoring position, over 20 points lower than his three-year average in that situation. That led to a poor showing of just 58 RBI. 13 of his 18 dingers came with no one on base, all trends that he needs to work on in 2011.
    Provided his splits return to normal, Phillips should finish with 23 HR, 26 SB, 110 runs scored and 70 RBI. Look for his average to hover around .270.

    7. Ben Zobrist - Tampa Bay Rays Zobrist saw his fantasy numbers plummet last season with the exception of his steals, making me think the .297 average that he posted in 2009 was more of a fluke than a break-out season for the 29 year-old. That being said, he has to hit better than the .238 clip he finished with last season, right?
    I am inclined to think so. I see the pop returning to his bat with 20 HR, and he will continue to show off his speed with 27 steals. He may never drive in 91 runs, as he did in his All-Star year two seasons ago, but wouldn't 75 RBI and an average of around .255 be a pleasant surprise after a dismal 2010?

    8. Rickie Weeks - Milwaukee Brewers At the risk of sounding like a broken record, allow me to discuss the prospects of another oft-injured second basemen in Rickie Weeks. I am lower on Weeks than most other fantasy analysts for one main reason, Rickie cannot stay on the field.
    True, he played in 160 games last season, and was impressive, posting career highs in runs (112), homers (29) and RBI (83). Before 2010, however, Weeks had not played in more than 130 games in a season, with a laundry list of injuries as the cause. The former first-round pick has the skills, but can he stay on the field to display them? If he does, he should finish with 90+runs scored, 20+ long balls and 15+ stolen bases, but, given his track record, I wouldn't bet on him playing 150 games in 2011.

    9. Martin Prado - Atlanta Braves While Prado will spend the majority of the season shagging fly balls in left, not turning double-plays at second base, he still holds second base eligibility under nearly every fantasy format. After turning in back-to-back seasons with a .307 average, Prado has proven a reliable late-round pick up to fill that middle infield slot.
    His home run numbers have climbed the last two seasons (11 in 2009, 15 in 2010) and I think that trend should continue, as the 27 year-old pushes for his first 20 dinger season. In that young Braves lineup, he should have no problem reaching 90 runs scored and 75 RBI, and I anticipate the batting average remaining solidly around .300.

    10. Kelly Johnson - Arizona Diamondbacks Johnson exploded into the conversation of top fantasy second basemen by setting career highs in runs scored (93), RBI (71) and homers (26) in his first season with the snakes. While his .284 average may have been partially attributable to luck (as evidenced by a less-exciting career-high of 148 strikeouts), I believe Johnson will still submit a very respectable season in 2011.
    I look for an average slightly higher than his career .269 mark, with 80 runs scored, 20 homers and 70 RBI. Throw in 10+ steals and you have all the makings of one of those late-round picks that can make (or sometimes break) a fantasy roster.


    Tuesday, February 22, 2011

    Preview of the 83rd Annual Academy Awards this Sunday

    I've been an Oscar lover forever and religiously watch the show every year. I have always, however, questioned how much they really matter. To be honest, ever since Diane Lane lost the Best Actress award for Unfaithful to Nicole Kidman's portrayal in The Hours in 2003, I thought about boycotting the awards all together. A lot of the votes may seem like they're not based on talent, but around politics. With just under 6,000 voting members though, a win signifies that for the most part, the awards go to the people who deserve them. Maybe.

    You probably already know what's nominated this year, but the list is below in any case. For Best Picture, the nominees are:

    The King's Speech
    The Social Network 
    Black Swan
    The Fighter
    The Kids Are All Right
    127 Hours
    Toy Story 3
    True Grit
    Winter's Bone 

    My favorites from the nominees are Inception and The Social Network. (Please note though that I haven't yet gotten the chance to view True Grit or Winter's Bone but have heard good things about both.)  

    The King's Speech is most likely going to win, and it will be a surprise, and probably labeled as an "upset" if it doesn't. Does it deserve the Best Picture award? Depends on what you like, and on a lot of things, really. I thought it was a really good film... well done and kept my interest. I don't think I was as in love with it as other people who saw it. So, maybe I'm in the minority for liking it, and not loving it.

    The Social Network has a ton of excellent elements. David Fincher took a story based around a brilliant computer geek's face-smash/thefacebook/facebook (failures and accomplishments) and manipulated it into a dark, sophisticated, intriguing film. The cinematography and music complement the film even further. In my eyes, Fincher deserves the Best Director award.

    Inception was the other favorite of mine because it was so different from any other film and because it was just awesome. (It's definitely a little confusing and extremely intense, so if you haven't seen it yet but plan to, I'd recommend not talking or having any distraction throughout the entire movie.) As the viewer, you're immersed in all levels of this dreamworld and even if you have no idea what level you're on (or even any idea about what the hell is going on), it's so worth every minute. The ending was brilliant, and left everyone wondering "does the spinning top fall or keep spinning?" i.e., should I feel happy or is this poor guy still in limbo?! (Christopher Nolan was not nominated in the Best Director category for this film. Um... s-n-u-b!)

    Some quick reviews on the other films nominated not already mentioned above... 

    Black Swan - actually liked this a lot more than I thought I would based on the very strange preview. Really well done and super intense.  
    The Fighter - I think anyone could like this movie. Great story.  
    The Kids Are All Right - loved this one! Superbly acted and scripted.  
    127 Hours - think Cast Away without Wilson. Some people hesitate on this one because of the ending, but it's got a lot going for it, so you can shy your eyes away for a few minutes and enjoy the rest.
    Toy Story 3 - totally cute and fun for the whole family.

    Now, onto other debatable categories...

    For Best Actress in a Leading Role - can this award please be given to Annette Bening for The Kids Are All Right? That woman is so talented and totally deserves this award for her incredible performance. Natalie Portman, also very good in Black Swan, will most likely win.

    For Best Actor in a Supporting Role - this is the hardest category to pick a winner. The award should either go to Christian Bale for The Fighter or Geoffrey Rush for The King's Speech. Both of their performances were top-notch. Bale once again literally becomes his character and Rush's incredible subtleties are so wonderful that while I was watching The King's Speech, I was thinking "he better get the Oscar for this role!" Then again, watching Christian Bale as a burnt-out crackhead versus him as Batman really shows how amazing his acting range is. So, we'll see! I'm torn on this one completely... good luck to both!

    For Best Music (Original Score) - for those of you who know me well, I'm trying to take my bias (okay, okay, total love and obsession) for Trent Reznor out of the equation. But, Reznor's score with Atticus Ross for The Social Network was phenomenal. This award belongs either to them, or to Hans Zimmer for his equally phenomenal score for Inception.

    I don't have any hands-down favorites for many of the other categories. Can't wait for Sunday to see all the beautiful celebrities and talents presenting the great films of this year and accepting their awards.