During the pre-season Charlie Saponara of Fantasy Baseball 365, Andrew Holm of Million Dollar Sleeper, and I put our collective heads together to create the Operation Fantasy Baseball Freedom Draft Guide. After ten days in the baseball season, most of the information from the draft kit is still relevant, but not all the information. I asked them about what has changed in ten days, who will be the next Jordan Walden, and what young pitcher they like best for 2011. I also threw in my two cents. Here’s what we had to say:
FBHS: Take your pick for 2011 only: Michael Pineda, Zach Britton, or Kyle Drabek.
FB 365: Zach Britton. He’s more polished, left-handed, throws in the low-to-mid-90′s and has a nasty sinker that keeps the ball on the ground and in the ballpark.
MDS: I had Michael Pineda ranked as a Top 40 Starting Pitcher entering the season. Pineda doesn’t offer the ground ball rate of Britton or the family lineage of Drabek, but he does boast the best strikeout potential, control and environment of these three. The AL East can be a scary place for a rookie hurler. Pineda makes his home in the most extreme pitcher’s park/division in the American League. 2011 Projection: 152 K, 1.26 WHIP, 3.92 ERA, 12 Wins (170 IP).
FBHS: Pineda. It’s hard to judge all three after seeing only small pieces of them in two MLB games. Thus, I turn to what I do know. I do know that Seattle offers the best venue to pitch in. And I do know that the lineups in the AL West do not have as much fire power as the lineups in the AL East. Given that they are all young and capable of going into funks, I like the guy that has these factors going in his favor.
FBHS: Everyone loves to argue that it’s too early this time of year. I don’t want to hear that. Tell me three things that have happened in April that have changed what you thought in March.
FB365: B.J. Upton is improving mechanically, I like it.
Derek Lowe has his ground ball sinker working, like he did late last season. A sub 4.00 ERA for 2011 is certainly possible.
Travis Hafner looks healthy (shoulder), ride em while he’s hot, but I could see a scenario where he hits 20-25 or more home runs this season. There’s no hurt in adding him and seeing if things pan out.
MDS: Jim Leyland lied to us! Ryan Raburn will not be the everyday LF in Detroit and he will not be a Top 12 Second Baseman in 2011.
I thought Manny Ramirez would hit 20 plus Home Runs for Tampa Bay. I was off by only 20 plus Home Runs.
I was sure Drew Storen was a lock to close games for Washington. The rumors of a committee approach turned out to be just that, rumors, but Sean Burnett is the one getting all the Saves!
FBHS: Daniel Hudson was supposed to be decent this year, but given his minor league track record (3.47 ERA in 17 Triple-A starts versus 2.45 ERA in 14 MLB starts) it seemed like he was destined to be around 4.00 in the ERA category this season. He was dirty on Saturday night (striking out the side in the 7th inning) against the Reds and can be a top twenty pitcher this season.
Jered Weaver spike in strikeouts last year was the start of a trend as opposed to a career year or a fluke.
With playing time basically a non-issue, Jose Tabata has a chance not just to contribute, but to be a fantasy star.
FBHS: Jordan Walden took over the closing gig this week for Fernando Rodney. Chris Sale got a save yesterday, but Ozzie indicated afterward that most chances should still go to Matt Thornton. Who will be the next pitcher to go from set up to closer?
FB 365: It might be time to put Wilton Lopez on your fantasy radar. Brandon Lyon blew a save on opening day and hasn’t held a K/BB rate over 2.00 for the past two seasons. Even though Lyon is signed through 2012 (no, seriously), the Astros need to focus on the future. Who can be their closer of the future? Lopez doesn’t exactly have “closer” stuff in the way we think of it. He doesn’t throw exceptionally hard or rack up a big number of strikeouts, but he doesn’t walk many hitters (only five walks in 67 innings in 2010) and he keeps the ball on the ground (56% GB% in 2010) and in the yard (4 HR in 67 IP in 2010). If you’re in a league when you need to be one move ahead of the rest for saves, Wilton Lopez is a decent bet.
MDS: Can I go the easy route and pick Drew Storen or Koji Uehara? I wouldn’t do that. Ignoring injury related situations (Oak, Phi, Tor and Sea), I think the bullpens we should monitor include: St. Louis, Houston and Tampa Bay. Ryan Franklin blew a third Save last night, Jason Motte should be on your speed dial. Brandon Lyon isn’t dominant (to put it nicely) and will likely lose his job at some point, Wilton Lopez and Mark Melacon should be next in line in for the Stros. Kyle Farnsworth was expected to get the early Save opportunities in Tampa (and finally recorded the Rays first Save on Friday), but I like Joel Peralta from that bullpen. Everyone is loving them some Jake McGee, but he’s still worrying about who he is taking to prom. Peralta is the one with tenure, early success, and has pitched in more high leverage situations this season than either Farnsworth or McGee. If I had to choose one of these setup men, I’ll run with Joel Peralta.
FBHS: Injuries are a greater reason for closer turnover than managers taking control. J.J. Putz battled back problems in spring training and battled arm injuries in 2008 and 2009. Juan Gutierrez saved 15 games last year, so he would be first in line for saves, but David Hernandez has more upside. He was better in the second half last season and switching from AL East to NL West has its benefits.
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