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.

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