Mastersball

NL Beat


The Pie Changes Leagues
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 22 February 2012 04:16

With the approval of the commissioner’s office, the anticipated trade of A.J. Burnett to the Pittsburgh Pirates was completed.  The party is officially over and the pie has been retired, although it really wasn’t a regular staple since 2009 – the year of the walk off.  That was the year Burnett made it a point to pie anyone responsible for late-inning heroics.  A.J. was the pie-er almost as often as Soupy Sales was the pie-ee back on his TV show.  Well, not really.

But it was a magical year, to steal a cliché.  Burnett kept things fun and lively during the regular season that year even though he didn’t pitch as well in many ways as he did the previous year when he went 18-10 for the Toronto Blue Jays.  Yet he still managed to finish with a winning 13-9 regular season record in his inaugural season in the Bronx.  Little did anyone know at the time it would be his one and only winning season with the Bombers.

Yet even though Burnett lost more games than he won after 2009, it is fair to say that if it wasn’t for A.J. the Yankees might not have won their 27th championship that year.  The series started off with CC Sabathia pitching for the Yankees and Cliff Lee as the starter for the Philadelphia Phillies.  It was a series that the Yankees could have faced Lee in three games.  Lee dominated the Yankees in Game 1, leaving the Bombers in a Game 2 must-win situation with the prospect of seeing Lee twice more.  Yankee manager Joe Girardi sent Burnett to the mound in Game 2 and he answered the bell with a seven-inning gem which the Yankees won to tie the series.

The Yankees went on to win the series in six games with Burnett pitching and losing in Game 5 against Cliff Lee albeit A.J. did pitch on only three days rest that night.  It might not seem like it was a tough series but after the Game 1 loss, Yankee fans were very nervous seeing what Lee had done to them and rightfully considered Game 2 to be do-or-die before it started.

Even though he had a record of one win and one loss in that World Series, many people considered A.J. to be the savior and he was riding high.  Starting in 2010, however, things were quite different and it was all downhill.  Good thing Javier Vazquez was there to take much of the heat and fan ire.

So fast forward to 2012 and it’s time to move the enigmatic A.J. out of town.  Enter the Pirates and exit Burnett back to the National League.  The question has been asked many times in the past week or so about how he would fare changing leagues.  The general assumption of many is back in the NL, in the weak Central Division, and especially away from the American League East, Burnett would automatically be better – almost to the point of a slam dunk. But just as a slam dunk isn’t always automatic in the NBA, neither is it in baseball.

Burnett still has the stuff to succeed with his fastball just under 93 miles per hour, and he demonstrated that with an increase in his K/9 from 6.99 in 2010 to 8.18 in 2011.  While that is good news, it comes with the realization that he also had an increase in BB/9 from 3.76 to 3.92.  The move to the designated hitter-less NL should bode well for both these ratios.

Another thing to consider, however, is a big increase in the number of home runs Burnett allowed in 2011.  A grand total of 31 of them; the most of any season in his career.  Things may not get much better in PNC Park as an overlay of the home runs A.J. allowed in 2011 at Yankee Stadium shows virtually the same number would have left the park in the Pirates’ home field.  In other words, the dingers Burnett allowed weren’t of the cheap variety.  On the good side, an increase in ground balls was met with a corresponding decrease in fly balls.  The problem, however, was both were met with an even bigger increase in the HR/FB rate.

Going back to the ground balls, the Yankee defense in 2011 helped Burnett quite a bit more than Pittsburgh’s would have and it remains to be seen how that will play out in 2012, although Pittsburgh should improve.  In Burnett’s favor, though, is he will be reunited with catcher Rod Barajas, who caught most of his games when he had the best year of his career with Toronto in 2008.

To sum it all up, A.J. Burnett still has the talent (raw stuff) to be a successful pitcher, and, even more so in the weaker NL Central Division.  However, I don’t expect him to have another year like 2008 – especially with a much weaker offense than the Yankees had – and probably not as good a year as the initial reactions are. But he is certainly going to be useful in NL leagues as a sure start.
 
Showing Some Love
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 16 February 2012 00:45

I hope everyone took a little time from your preparation or drafts to spend some time with your better half or significant other. Me personally, I left work early and went home and took my lady out for a nice dinner before sitting down to get out this week’s piece. When thinking about what I was going to write about I decided to keep with the theme of the season and announce my all National League man crush team of 2012. In doing this, I didn’t want to just go through each position and pick the top ranked player at each one. That would be boring and unimaginative. Rather, I chose each player through a combination of ability, playing situation, home park, and how they looked in a baseball uniform. Well, not really the latter. Basically, guys who don’t normally get all the love.

Catcher – Miguel Montero has been the primary catcher in Arizona for the past few years. He doesn’t get the kind of notice that Brian McCann has or, more recently, Buster Posey. But he hasn’t cost as much in an auction or draft either. Montero is still only 28 years old; only one year older than McCann. He has hit at least 16 homeruns in two of the past three years with 2010 being the only exception due to a knee injury. He bounced back in 2011 with the best year of his career batting .282 while hitting 18 homeruns and knocking in 86 – the highest of any catcher. A 20 HR season is only a matter of time playing in the desert. He has the potential to be a 90 RBI guy while hitting .275 - .280 behind the plate.

First Base – There is some question whether Freddie Freeman could be a big homerun hitting first baseman in the majors. However, Freddie hit 21 in his first full season with the Atlanta Braves in a home park that isn’t necessarily conducive for hitting many over the wall. But Freeman is big – 6’5’ and 225 pounds – and if anyone could hit for power in Atlanta it should be him, although it will take a little time. He will hit for a pretty good average right now along with low 20’s power and was good enough to finish second in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting in 2011.

Second Base – Fantasy players don’t normally think of this position as being a big source of power for their team. A decent average with stolen base potential has been the stereo-type for many years with few exceptions. Lately, there has been a change at second base as there has with shortstop and we are seeing more players from this position who could put up good power numbers. None, however, more so than Dan Uggla - affectionately known as ‘Ugly’ because of the often unattractive batting average he carries. But average isn’t what he’s about. Dan has hit at least 27 homeruns every year he’s been in the majors and has hit at least 30 in the last five in a row with the only exception being his rookie season. Give me Uggla and I’ll find the batting average someplace else.

Third Base – Call me a believer or a Kool-Aid drinker but I’m on board with Mat Gamel. There are people who have soured on him but, come on; he hasn’t really gotten a shot yet at the main event with only 171 career at bats. The most he had in one season was 128 in 2009 and no more than 26 in any other year. With Prince Fielder leaving for free agency Mat will take over at first base and this could very well be the last chance to plug him in at a thin hot corner. He should get a fair chance this year and I foresee a good shot at 20 homeruns.

Shortstop – If he continues to build upon what he did in 2010, this could be the last year to get Starlin Castro on the cheap. 2011 was his second season at shortstop for the Chicago Cubs and there was no sophomore slump. Starlin’s workload increased by 33 games to 158 last year and he increased his homerun output from three to ten. Castro more than doubled his stolen bases to 22 and was more judicious in his attempts in only being caught one more time. At the same time his batting average up-ticked a bit to .307. He is one of the few bright spots on the Cubs for 2012.

Outfield – Andrew McCutchen saw an increase in power in 2011 but that came at the expense of a batting average about 30 points lower and an increase in strikeouts from 89 in 2010 to 126. However, his OBP was flat from 2010 to 2011. The stolen base total did fall at the same time the power went up – 33 in 2010 to 23 in 2011 with ten caught stealing each year. The decrease in BA and SB might scare some away but I’m looking for the batting average to get back to the .275 - .280 range with a 25/25 season.

Starting Pitcher – I have always had a crush on Yovani Gallardo and, in fact, he has been on at least one of my teams each of the past three years. He isn’t in that upper echelon of starting pitchers but he’s not far from it and could creep up into the bottom of that tier if he continues to build on a strong 2011. Gallardo is still only 25 year old and has been healthy – throwing at least 185 innings each of the last three years with 207 last year. Yovani has also eclipsed the 200 strikeout mark each of those years while winning 60% of his decisions and keeping his fastball velocity at 92 mph in the process. I will again love me some Yovani Gallardo this year.

Closer – This could also be the last year to get Ryan Madson on the cheap. He had a stellar season for the Philadelphia Phillies in successfully finishing off 32 of 34 save chances. Madson added 62 strikeouts for better than one per inning and a very good WHIP and ERA. What more could you want from a closer? He’s on a one year deal with the Cincinnati Reds and will be looking to prove he is worthy of a multi-year deal from a team looking for a closer in 2013. I’m heavily invested already in Madson for this season and that investment should certainly increase with each draft I do.

 
The Catching Crunch
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 08 February 2012 04:39

In many of the drafts and auctions I do, there isn’t much love for catchers. Many players look upon them as a necessary evil. This could be because so many of them are unspectacular while the rest are batting average drains. But every league I know of requires them. If you happen to be in a NL only league that requires two catchers, you’re really feeling the pain.

In a 15 team mixed league that requires two catchers per team, fourteen of them come from the American League while the other 16 come from the National League. This makes sense since there are still two more teams in the NL. But when you look at the catchers that comprise the 30 that are in the positive pool that makes up the quantity required to start, there is a pronounced difference. Only four of the AL backstops have a value less than ten dollars while nine from the NL have a value less than ten dollars. Only one from the AL has a value of five dollars or less while there are five from the NL with the same type of value. In a mixed league, the catchers from the American League are pushed up into the top and middle tiers while the catchers from the National League are more spread out with the bottom tier consisting predominately of National Leaguers.

Here’s how my top 15 catchers rank for the NL.

  1. Brian McCann – You really can’t argue against McCann getting top billing. He’s done it for many years now. Since 2006 (his first full season in the majors), the Atlanta Braves backstop has hit at least 20 homeruns at least five of six years. The lowest he’s ever hit for a season with Atlanta was .269 in 2010. He has even managed close to a handful of stolen bases most years.
  2. Miguel Montero – Every year Montero has received at least 425 at bats he has hit at least 16 home runs with a career batting average over .270 – a trend that should easily continue due to the friendly confines of Chase Field.
  3. Buster Posey – Some would put him ahead of Montero and, possibly, McCann. I think he very well might finish the year with more value than the top two; I’m hedging my bet a bit after his horrific injury last year. The Giants are said to be looking to give him at least one day a week at first base to take away some of the wear and tear behind the plate.
  4. Yadier Molina – The next level starts with the St. Louis Cardinal catcher who has been steady, if not spectacular. The 14 homeruns he hit in 2011 were at least double what he has hit in any year of his career so don’t count on that as the norm. What he does bring to the table is a good average and 135+ games played.
  5. Geovany Soto – Soto has demonstrated mid 20’s homerun power but has been very inconsistent. This is evident in his batting average which has gone from a low of .218 in 2009 to a high of .285 in 2008. I wouldn’t bet on which Soto I’m going to get.
  6. John Buck – Demonstrated he can hit 20 homeruns but, at the same time, demonstrated that hitting over .250 for a season is a fluke for him. Entering his second year in the NL and has hopefully learned the pitchers enough to improve on his .227 2011 batting average.
  7. Carlos Ruiz – Hasn’t hit double digit homeruns since 2006 in AAA. His batting eye has improved as he’s hit .302 and .283 in 2010 and 2011 respectively. Has pretty much a 1:1 strikeout to walk ratio.
  8. Wilson Ramos – The 24 year old had quite the scare this off-season as he was kidnapped in his native Venezuela and was rescued after a few days. This after a successful rookie campaign in which he batted .267 and hit 15 homeruns. If he builds on this even a small amount he could quickly move up the ranks. And he’s only 24 years old.
  9. Jonathan Lucroy – Combines low double-digit homerun power with a batting average over .250 that won’t totally decimate your team.
  10. Ramon Hernandez – After hitting double digit homeruns in Baltimore two out of three years, it was surprising that Hernandez only managed at least ten homeruns in only one of his three years in Cincinnati, another hitter’s park. He moves to Colorado where he can perhaps regain that double digit power with a pretty good batting average.
  11. Rod Barajas – Mid to upper teens power with a poor batting average is what Barajas provides.
  12. Wilin Rosario – Hernandez is only holding a spot until Rosario is ready. Wilin has 20 home run potential, possibly more at Coors Field.
  13. Devin Mesoraco – This ranking is maybe a little aggressive given Dusty Baker’s penchant for going with veterans. Has power and has proven he can hit for average in the minors, although he was inconsistent. He did improve 58 points in Triple-A from 2010 to 2011.
  14. Ryan Hanigan – Single digit homeruns with an OK batting average. It’s obvious why he’s just a place-holder for Mesoraco.
  15. Chris Snyder – Coming off back surgery and getting a new lease on life with the Houston Astros. He has hit double digit homeruns in the past and maybe he can again in Minute Maid Park.
 
Third Base Blues
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 01 February 2012 00:25

Much has been said and written about the dearth of talent at the top of the first base pool in the National League with the exodus of Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder to the American League and the questions surrounding Ryan Howard’s return. This leaves Joey Votto all alone at the top of the first base mountain with a big drop-off after him – a position that fantasy players normally count on for big production.

Third base is another infield position we normally count on for good production. This year, however, it is a little thin at the top with a big group near the middle and an even bigger group at the bottom. To make matters a little more dicey, everyone’s consensus top pick to finish the year with the most value at the hot corner isn’t even third base eligible going into the season. So without further ado, let’s look at third base rankings in the National League.

  1. Hanley Ramirez – The move to third will obviously help the prospects for third base in the NL but Hanley only has shortstop eligibility entering the year. There was a lot of noise surrounding Ramirez demanding a trade since he didn’t want to switch positions. Somehow, Ozzie Guillen schmoozed him into accepting the position change – at least on the surface. Depending on your league rules, you will need a replacement for him until he gains third base eligibility.
  2. David Wright – After a dismal 2009 in which he only hit ten home runs, Wright bounced back to smack 29 in 2010 before falling back to 14 in an injury shortened 2011. The Metropolitans shortened the distance to the outfield walls – as much as 12 feet in some places - and lowered the home run line to eight feet in an attempt to produce more offense. Wright should get the biggest benefit from the reduced home run distance.
  3. Ryan Zimmerman – The Washington Nationals third sacker saw his season shortened by injury to less than 400 AB after consecutive years of at least 525. Zimmerman suffered an abdominal strain which sapped him of his power and managed a measly 12 HR on the year. With the injury behind him, expect Ryan to bounce back to the mid 20’s range in long balls.
  4. Aramis Ramirez – Ramirez bounced back nicely from a disappointing 2010. In 100 more AB his HR rate decreased (although he still wound up with 26) but his BA increased by 65 points and strikeouts were down. I expect more of the same for 2012 but he will be turning 34 before the All- Star break – just saying.
  5. Pablo Sandoval – Kung Fu Panda entered 2011 leaner and meaner and it showed in his results – more HR, RBI, and a higher BA despite playing in 35 fewer games because of injuries. The key for Sandoval is to enter 2012 in the same shape he was in going into the 2011 season. If he does, he could hit mid to upper 20’s home runs in a park that is unforgiving for hitters.

We have a bit of a drop off to the next group of hitters.

  1. Ryan Roberts – Roberts fell short of a 20/20 season by only one homerun and two stolen bases at age 30. This came with an average that was a little hard to take - .249. For most leagues, Ryan has eligibility at 2B, 3B, MI, and CI – wherein lies a good amount of his value. In leagues with liberal rules he may even qualify at SS and OF.
  2. Chase Headley – Headley can hit for a decent average with low double digit homeruns and stolen bases. Unfortunately, that’s about all you’ll get in Petco.
  3. Martin Prado – Most of Prado’s value in 2010 (which made him a fantasy darling) was his eligibility at every infield position except shortstop. In 2011 he lost first base eligibility and in 2012 he’ll only have third base and outfield as available positions. He can hit for average but only has low teens power and can only steal a few bases. As such, his value takes a big hit this year.

Another drop, this one a bit steeper.

  1. David Freese – He was limited in 2011 due to injuries but still got the chance to play more games in the majors than any other year in his career. He can hit for a good average and, given enough plate appearances, can hit mid teens or so homeruns. The caveat is his World Series MVP will likely result in a higher than justified price tag.
  2. Chipper Jones – The hot corner fixture for most of the past decade for the Atlanta Braves will turn 40 years old before the season starts. He hasn’t seen over 500 at bats since 2007 and the smart money says he won’t in 2012 either as he’s had a myriad of injuries the past few years. Count on mid teens homeruns with a decent batting average but not much more.
  3. Mat Gamel – Although he will most likely replace Prince Fielder at first base (at least for the start of 2012), Gamel will have third base eligibility in many leagues. Given enough at bats, he could hit 20+ homeruns but if he continues to get on base at just barely a .300 clip, his playing time might be limited.
  4. Scott Rolen – Just squeaked out 250 at bats in 2011 with only five homeruns and a .242 BA. If you roster him, hold your breath and be prepared to pick up Juan Francisco.
  5. Jimmy Paredes – With the Houston Astros going nowhere, they are pretty much committed to playing Paredes most days. He can provide a fairly good batting average with low homerun totals. His asset is his legs – he can steal 20+ bases if he gets the playing time.
  6. Ty Wigginton – With Ryan Howard sidelined for at least the first month of the season, Wigginton will get the start at first base most days. He still retains eligibility at third base and outfield as well – providing good roster flexibility for fantasy owners. Wigginton is still capable of 20 homeruns if he gets enough at bats although the batting average will be lacking.
  7. Placido Polanco – Polanco is recovering from two sports hernias and this may limit his time early on in the year as the Phillies will try to keep him healthy. The only thing he brings to the table is a batting average north of .280.
  8. Casey Blake – Blake is coming off a season limited by injury to just over 200 at bats. However, the path for him to be the starting third baseman has been cleared. Mid-teens homeruns and a .250 average is what you should expect. Anything else by way of more plate appearances consider a bonus given his age, health, and Arizona Fall League MVP Nolan Arenado.
  9. Ian Stewart – Stewart has been limited by injuries and not living up to expectations. He gets a new lease on life with the Chicago Cubs and did hit 25 homeruns in 2009. Mid to upper teens power with a .230 - .240 average sounds about right.
  10. Daniel Descalso – Enters the year with third base eligibility but the St. Louis Cardinals will give him the second base job until he loses it. See Polanco, Placido for expectations.
  11. Pedro Alvarez – Once one of the top rated minor leaguers, Alvarez saw his prospects take a major hit in 2011. After hitting 16 homeruns and a .256 clip in 95 games in 2010, Pedro saw that tank to four homeruns and a .191 clip in 74 games last year. He has at least mid teens power, it’s just a matter of where the average will come in.
  12. Casey McGehee – The backup plan for Alvarez in Pittsburgh. McGehee is just one season removed from 23 homeruns but look for mid teens and be happy if you get it.
  13. Juan Uribe – He lost his second base eligibility where he was more suited, fantasy-wise and will start at third for the Los Angeles Dodgers. Could hit 15 homeruns but it will come at the expense of a .250 batting average.

Also eligible – Geoff Blum, Miguel Cairo, Mark DeRosa, Greg Dobbs, Juan Francisco, Todd Frazier, Jerry Hairston Jr., Chris Johnson.

The moral of the story? You want to make sure you get one of the guys near the top in NL-only leagues unless you’re feeling really lucky.
 
Pitching Picks
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 25 January 2012 04:55

Baseball draft season is upon us. Perry Van Hook, for instance, has written about a few drafts and the first notable experts draft was held this past weekend at the Fantasy Sports Trade Association Conference in Las Vegas. Things will ramp up slowly from here before snowballing through February and into the bulk of the NFBC drafts in March.

Many fantasy baseball sites are getting their projections and dollar values out this month (MB published ours last month) as the public is getting over football and switching to baseball mode. For those who like to use Average Draft Position, there are enough mock draft results to provide a good sample size and this will be getting larger daily.

I don’t really use ADPs but I am preparing for my own auctions and straight drafts. As I mentioned in a previous piece, in most leagues pitching makes up 50 percent of the available points but in most cases is only allotted 30-35 percent of the available funds or relatively few of the top ten draft rounds. One thing I like to do is look at each team and, avoiding the obvious top-tier pitchers, identify one hurler who I wouldn’t mind having on my teams. While I would certainly welcome a Roy Halladay or Clayton Kershaw on any of my teams, 99.99% of the time I wouldn’t be willing to invest the dollars or upper draft picks to actually roster either of them or a comparable pitcher.

I have taken a look at every National League team and here is my list of pitching candidates I wouldn’t mind owning – one from each team.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Ian Kennedy – Many people will look to 2011 as a fluke or one-time deal. While I don’t think he’ll repeat last year’s numbers, I do believe he will be more than useful and will be undervalued to a certain extent.

Atlanta Braves – Brandon Beachy – He is buried deeply enough in the target list by Tommy Hanson, Craig Kimbrel, and possibly Tim Hudson to be able to scoop up. Can strike out a bunch but still has somewhat limited name recognition.

Chicago Cubs – Matt Garza – Not many to choose from, frankly, on this team. Garza is the best the Cubs have but certainly not in the upper tier of starters, so he’ll be available in many of my leagues when I’m looking for a pitcher like him.

Cincinnati Reds – Ryan Madson – As much as I liked Mat Latos in Petco, that’s how much I dislike him in Great American Ballpark. While there are at least half a dozen closers with a higher value than Madson, I’ll gladly wait a bit and add him to my teams.

Colorado Rockies – Rafael Betancourt – See Madson, Ryan. I don’t like spending top dollar on closers and prefer those in the second or third tiers. Betancourt certainly qualifies there, so welcome aboard.

Houston Astros – Bud Norris – The big name here is Wandy Rodriguez but I’ll take Bud four to five rounds later. Progressed nicely in 2011 and I expect further growth.

Los Angeles Dodgers – Ted Lilly – Still useful enough for a later round addition and I’m not going to pay what it will take to roster Clayton Kershaw. Lilly may even be available later than Chad Billingsley in some leagues since people might still be waiting for Chad to blossom.

Miami Marlins – Anibal Sanchez – Some might be buying into Carlos Zambrano and a change of scenery but I’m not. Not before Sanchez anyway. I like Josh Johnson but he will not go low enough for me to mitigate the injury concern.

Milwaukee Brewers – Zack Greinke – Should go a little lower than Yovani Gallardo and I’m fine with that. His 10.5 K/9 belied his 3.80 ERA, which should cause him to fall nicely to where I’d ante up.

New York Mets – Frank Francisco – He fits the bill as a cheap closer and I did say I’d pick one pitcher from each team.

Philadelphia Phillies – Cole Hamels – There will obviously be two pitchers from Philadelphia taken before Cole and I’ll wait the extra two or three rounds for Hamels.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan – Again, he fits the definition of a cheap closer as many will pass him by for more established finishers, downplaying 2011. I won’t be one of those and will gladly take him later than some of the top-tier closers.

San Diego Padres – Cory Luebke – Had a solid 2011 and while some will take him because he plays for the Padres and pitches in Petco, many others will avoid him because he plays for the Padres and won’t get much run support. Not to take anything away from Aaron Harang but look what he was able to do for San Diego in 2011.

San Francisco Giants – Madison Bumgarner – Will go after Tim Lincecum and Matt Cain, maybe even Brian Wilson if there’s a run on closers early. I’ll wait for Bumgarner and be happy about it. While we’re on the topic of the Giants, it’s amazing they still have to pay Barry Zito a big chunk of money for two more years.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Motte – Another closer I wouldn’t mind waiting the necessary rounds for instead of picking one higher. Adam Wainwright will go much too early for my taste as will Chris Carpenter and Jaime Garcia.

Washington Nationals – Jordan Zimmermann – While Stephen Strasburg will again get all the hype and Gio Gonzalez got all the off-season talk, I’ll sit back and wait for Zimmerman to fall into my lap.

While I probably won’t own everyone on this list, you can be sure I will own quite a few. I won’t have a problem taking an ace if the time and price is right but wouldn’t mind going to war with a staff made up of players like those I listed here.
 
Transaction Flurries
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Thursday, 19 January 2012 00:00

The football playoffs are winding down – we’ve gotten through the Wild Card and Divisional contests and are left with the Conference championships to determine the Super Bowl participants. That leaves us, at this date, about one month out from the start of Spring Training 2012. Teams are starting to get more geared up for pitchers and catchers reporting; trying to get rosters set before heading south for on-field activities.

To that end, general managers are working on writing and offering contracts as they put together rosters for the upcoming season. Many players either had one-year contracts for 2011 or are arbitration eligible, and we will see many of those issues dealt with in the next couple of weeks. The deadline for exchanging arbitration figures was January 17 with hearings scheduled between February 1 and February 21. Teams will be trying to avoid the sometimes contentious arbitration process and will try to get contracts in place before the hearing date.

There have been a flurry of signings over the past week and that will begin to escalate. Let’s take a look at some of the recent signings that have the biggest impact on playing situations.

Arizona Diamondbacks – Joe Saunders given a new contract for the 2012 season but he is just a placeholder for some of the D’Backs upcoming youngsters.

Atlanta Braves – Signed Jack Wilson to a one-year deal. Wilson’s starting days are done as his hitting and fielding have gone south. He will serve as Tyler Pastornicky’s backup at this point. Martin Prado also got a one-year deal and is slated to again be the left fielder although he has a lack of power you would want in a corner position. He doesn’t have second base/middle infield eligibility like he did in 2009 and 2010 which is where much of his value came from. Third base/corner is still there. Jair Jurrjens got a new one-year deal but his role is still up in the air as the Braves have quite a few options for their rotation. There are reports teams are interested in acquiring the right-hander (the Yankees were one but that is unlikely with the Michael Pineda and Hiroki Kuroda moves) so Jurrjens is a pretty good candidate to be changing address. Speedster Michael Bourn also got a new one-year deal and will be back in center field and at the top of the batting order where Atlanta will let him go on the basepaths.

Chicago Cubs – Kerry Wood gets a new one-year deal for 2012 with a team option for 2013. He will be in the bullpen although it remains to be seen how many innings he’ll be able to put in following knee surgery. But who knows what may be in store with Carlos Marmol’s propensity to issue free passes to hitters and reduction in K/9 of almost 4.0 (although it is still about 12.0/9). Jeff Baker, Blake DeWitt, Geovany Soto, Ian Stewart, Chris Volstad, and Randy Wells all got new one-year deals. Baker and DeWitt will have backup roles. Soto will again be the primary backstop but is coming off a disappointing year in which he batted .228. But since we are in an even numbered year expect improvement (if you believe in those kind of trends or track records). Stewart is the heir apparent to Aramis Ramirez but has injury issues. Wells will be back in the rotation and Volstad will get his chance after being traded from the Miami Marlins for Carlos Zambrano.

Cincinnati Reds – Gave new one-year contracts to Homer Bailey, Bill Bray, and Paul Janish. Bailey is coming up on a crossroads as the Reds will most likely have to decide how much longer they’re willing to wait for him to become the starting pitcher they thought he would be. He will be in the rotation starting for Cincinnati in 2012 but for how long isn’t sure. Bray will be back in the bullpen where he did well. Janish stepped back from his 2010 production and is now the backup for Zack Cozart at shortstop.

Colorado Rockies – Signed Seth Smith to a one-year deal then turned around and traded him to the Oakland A’s for Guillermo Moscoso and Josh Outman in a deal that, frankly doesn’t make sense from the Rockies’ standpoint. Moscoso gives up fly balls by the bushel full which won’t play well in Coors Field. Outman doesn’t fare well against right handed hitters which isn’t a good thing either. Center fielder Dexter Fowler got a one-year deal and will be given his chance to win the leadoff spot again.

Houston Astros – Gave a new one-year contract to J.A. Happ who will again be part of an Astros rotation that has a couple parts with potential but is not deep.

Los Angeles Dodgers – James Loney and Andre Ethier each get a new one-year contract. I have no use for Loney as a first baseman who has never hit more than 15 home runs but evidently the Dodgers do. Ethier was limited to 135 games last year and disappointed with only 11 home runs. Los Angeles and fantasy players will be hoping for a bounce back.

Miami Marlins – Juan Carlos Oviedo (formerly Leo Nunez) and Edward Mujica get one year contracts. Both will work out of the bullpen for the Marlins.

Milwaukee Brewers – Sign Carlos Gomez, Kameron Loe, Nyjer Morgan, Manny Parra, and Francisco Rodriguez to one-year contracts and Norichika Aoki to a two-year deal. Gomez and Morgan will again split the center field duties. Loe and Parra will be part of the bullpen mix again. Rodriguez comes back to Milwaukee for 2012 at a $3 million plus salary cut after which he could hit the open market in a more favorable year for free agent closers. His salary also makes him an attractive potential trade chip for a team looking for a closer later in the year. Aoki will primarily back up the corner outfield positions but could get full-time duty early on depending on what happens with Ryan Braun.

New York Mets – Manny Acosta, Ronny Cedeno, Mike Pelfrey, Ramon Ramirez, and Andres Torres all received one-year contracts from the club. Acosta will at least compete for the closer’s role while Ramirez will have a bullpen spot. Cedeno will serve as a backup to Ruben Tejada at shortstop. Pelfrey should be back in the rotation despite a poor 2011. Torres will be the everyday center fielder but doesn’t bring much to the table anymore, especially for fantasy players.

Philadelphia Phillies – Signed Cole Hamels, Kyle Kendrick, and Wilson Valdez to one-year contracts. Hamels, who was party to trade rumors earlier in the off-season, will slot back into the starting rotation. Kendrick will start out in the bullpen but will be the first to get a call to start if anything happens to the first five. Valdez will again fill a bench role and doesn’t have fantasy value even when he does play.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan, Jeff Karstens, Evan Meek, Charlie Morton, and Chris Resop all got new one-year contracts. Hanrahan returns as the closer after saving 40 games in 2011. Karstens will return to the rotation and Morton, just off hip surgery, will be in the mix for starts. Meek at one point was considered a potential closer candidate but had a rough 2011 that included missed time from a shoulder injury. He’ll be back in the bullpen as will Resop.

San Diego Padres – Sign John Baker, Luke Gregerson, Chase Headley, Nick Hundley, Carlos Quentin, Tim Stauffer, Joe Thatcher, Will Venable, and Edinson Volquez all to one-year deals. Hundley will be back as the starting catcher with Baker as his replacement. Gregerson, who some thought would be the heir to close out games before Huston Street was acquired, will set up Street. Thatcher is a lefty back of the bullpen option. Volquez and Stauffer both have starting rotation spots and Petco should keep some of Volquez’s fly balls in the park. Headley is back at third base and, while not providing much power, has low teens stolen base output. Quentin mans left field but should see a drop in home run production playing in Petco. Venable figures to share time in right field.

San Francisco Giants – Melky Cabrera, Santiago Casilla, Angel Pagan, and Nate Schierholtz receive one-year contracts while Pablo Sandoval gets a three-year deal. Cabrera will man center field for the Giants after a breakout 2011 for the Kansas City Royals. He figures to see a drop in HR and SB playing in San Francisco. Pagan will be the starting right fielder and figures to get pretty good SB totals. Schierholtz will back up the corner outfield spots. Sandoval gets rewarded for a bounce back 2011 at third base and Casilla is a good middle relief option.

St. Louis Cardinals – Only move of note the past week was to sign Kyle McClellan to a one-year deal. He will be back in a swing role for the Cards out of the bullpen.

Washington Nationals – Tyler Clippard, Jesus Flores, Gio Gonzalez, Tom Gorzelanny, and Jordan Zimmerman are all signed to one-year contracts. Clippard and Gorzelanny will man the bullpen with Gorzelanny being an option to start if needed. Zimmerman and Gonzalez are starting pitchers with good fantasy value. Flores will be a backup backstop.
 
NL Hurlers
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 03:33

As far back as I can remember, the Masters of Mastersball have been preaching “bully hitting and manage pitching”. To be honest, that’s how most owners I know play it. There are some who try to go against the grain and go big on starting pitching. Others try to get an ace or two and fill in the rest with lower tiered targets. Still others eschew the higher priced pitchers altogether and try to cobble together a bargain basement staff, counting on winning all the hitting categories.

Whichever way an owner chooses to do it, the fact remains that 50% of the available points in most every fantasy league (I’ve seen some strange combinations of 7 X 6, 8 X 5, etc) can be gotten from the pitching categories. Sure, there have been times when an extremely low or extremely high pitching budget has won a league, but, for the most part, winning teams’ pitching budgets are in the 30 – 35% range and feature some sort of mix from the upper and lower tiers.

It’s early and there’s likely to be some more personnel changing teams and possibly leaving the league but here’s my first ranked look at the top 25 National League starting pitchers.

Roy Halladay, Phillies

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Cliff Lee, Phillies

Tim Lincecum, Giants

Cole Hamels, Phillies

Matt Cain, Giants

Zack Greinke, Brewers

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Josh Johnson, Marlins

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Tommy Hanson, Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Jordan Zimmermann, Nationals

Mat Latos, Reds

Brandon Beachy, Braves

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks

Matt Garza, Cubs

Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Cory Luebke, Padres

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals

Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

It’s always fun to put together your own personal rankings and compare them to others. Look at enough of them and you can even glean something tantamount to an ADP. As I stated, this is an early ranking and there have been rumors surrounding Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cole Hamels, to name a few. More will shake out in the weeks and months to come and I will re-visit this in the future when things are much more firmed up.
 
NL Hurlers
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 11 January 2012 03:29

As far back as I can remember, the Masters of Mastersball have been preaching “bully hitting and manage pitching”. To be honest, that’s how most owners I know play it. There are some who try to go against the grain and go big on starting pitching. Others try to get an ace or two and fill in the rest with lower tiered targets. Still others eschew the higher priced pitchers altogether and try to cobble together a bargain basement staff, counting on winning all the hitting categories.

Whichever way an owner chooses to do it, the fact remains that 50% of the available points in most every fantasy league (I’ve seen some strange combinations of 7 X 6, 8 X 5, etc) can be gotten from the pitching categories. Sure, there have been times when an extremely low or extremely high pitching budget has won a league, but, for the most part, winning teams’ pitching budgets are in the 30 – 35% range and feature some sort of mix from the upper and lower tiers.

It’s early and there’s likely to be some more personnel changing teams and possibly leaving the league but here’s my first ranked look at the top 25 National League starting pitchers.

Roy Halladay, Phillies

Clayton Kershaw, Dodgers

Cliff Lee, Phillies

Tim Lincecum, Giants

Cole Hamels, Phillies

Matt Cain, Giants

Zack Greinke, Brewers

Chris Carpenter, Cardinals

Josh Johnson, Marlins

Yovani Gallardo, Brewers

Madison Bumgarner, Giants

Tommy Hanson, Braves

Stephen Strasburg, Nationals

Jordan Zimmerman, Nationals

Mat Latos, Reds

Brandon Beachy, Braves

Ian Kennedy, Diamondbacks

Adam Wainwright, Cardinals

Daniel Hudson, Diamondbacks

Matt Garza, Cubs

Ted Lilly, Dodgers

Cory Luebke, Padres

Jaime Garcia, Cardinals

Gio Gonzalez, Nationals

Wandy Rodriguez, Astros

It’s always fun to put together your own personal rankings and compare them to others. Look at enough of them and you can even glean something tantamount to an ADP. As I stated, this is an early ranking and there have been rumors surrounding Matt Garza, Wandy Rodriguez, and Cole Hamels, to name a few. More will shake out in the weeks and months to come and I will re-visit this in the future when things are much more firmed up.
 
First Base in Flux
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 04 January 2012 04:18

The Los Angeles Angels’ and American League’s gain has, obviously, been the loss for the St. Louis Cardinals and the National League, with Albert Pujols bolting the Senior Circuit for the California sun and Arte Moreno’s money. What has been the near consensus top pick in NL fantasy leagues for the past decade is no longer available. Pujols’ departure is one of a few things that could provide the perfect storm for the top of NL draft lists. Right now, St. Louis has Lance Berkman penciled in as Albert’s replacement at first base and that doesn’t seem likely to change.

The second part of this storm is the uncertainty surrounding Ryan Braun and his potential 50-game ban. There has surprisingly been nothing said about this story since it first broke. The three possible scenarios – a full 50-game ban, a full pardon, partial pardon and partial ban – is causing grief for any leagues that are drafting early. If a ban becomes reality, fantasy owners then have to decide how far to drop Braun down their boards. Nyjer Morgan stands to get a bump at the start of the season if Braun is sidelined, with Taylor Green being factored in a bit.

The third part of this perfect storm could be the bolting of Prince Fielder for the American League. Fielder is reportedly being linked closely to the Washington Nationals recently, but there could be three things preventing that – they have to think about tending a long term contract to Ryan Zimmerman not too far down the road, the need to find a home for Adam LaRoche and his $9M contract, the possibility of Scott Boras seeking an opt-out clause in a contract for Prince (Miami might do this but I don't see it happening with the Nationals). Any one of these could derail the Fielder to Washington train. While the Chicago Cubs are also interested in the rotund first baseman, there are at least four American League teams kicking the tires - the Baltimore Orioles, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers, and Toronto Blue Jays. So he just might wind up in the AL where he could at least DH part of the time or near the end of his contract. Mat Gamel would be the likely replacement at first base at least for the near term if Prince doesn't return to Milwaukee.

 With two-thirds of this storm directly affecting the first base position in the NL, I’m going to rank my top ten first base options, assuming the worst and the storm hits.

Joey Votto, CIN – Now the only legitimate 40 HR threat entering 2012. Combine that with a BA over .300 and 100+ runs scored and RBI as well as a sprinkling of double-digit SBs and he stands head and shoulders above all the others at the position.

Mike Morse, WAS – A breakout season in 2011 but at 29 years old, he’s not nearly as young as some might think. But without a no-brainer standout for this spot, he gets it on the strength of last year’s performance. He is a legitimate 30 HR threat, but at his age there isn’t going to be much more growth.

Michael Cuddyer, COL – He will play in left field for the Rox but I’m including him here because he will still have eligibility. While I like Cuddyer and think he could up his performance a bit in Denver, his inclusion here shows the lack of options at the upper tier of the position entering 2012.

Paul Goldschmidt, ARI – The BA will be middling in the .200’s but he does have the capability of knocking 30 dingers in the desert as well as stealing a handful of bases – possibly even double digits.

Ike Davis, NYM – Ike had an eye-opening 2010 and a hot start to 2011 before being injured and missing all but 36 games of the season. His seven HR extrapolated out to a 30 HR season, albeit not likely. Still, he has mid 20’s potential with upper 20’s a possibility thanks to the drawn in fences at Citi Field.

Freddie Freeman, ATL – If it wasn’t for Craig Kimbrel and his 46 saves, Freddie would have been your NL Rookie of the Year in 2011. He hit 21 HR with a .282 BA last year but has the size for mid-20’s power. His 76 RBI is an indictment of how offensively challenged the Braves were.

Gaby Sanchez, MIA – Back-to-back 19 HR seasons and Sanchez seems to have found his niche. I’m counting on an uptick into the low 20’s range with a little more power output. Not exciting but that defines this point in the rankings.

Lance Berkman, STL – I don’t see anything even approaching his 2011 results. He’s the best of what’s left at the position. Hope for low 20’s HR production and be happy.

Mat Gamel, MIL – Needs to learn how to hit left-handers better. If he does, he’ll get more playing time and mid-teens home runs will turn into low 20’s power. Still has to prove he can do it at the major league level but I think he can.

Brandon Belt, SFG – I believe he’ll put his 2011 troubles aside and take a step towards becoming the player everyone thought he could be. Aubrey Huff and Nate Schierholtz won’t stand in his way in the long run. Could very well hit 20 HR.

Some guys I just don’t believe in for 2012 for various reasons – Carlos Lee, James Loney, Adam LaRoche, and Ryan Howard.

 
Cursed by the Fantasy Gridiron Gods
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 28 December 2011 04:31

I’m going to take a break from baseball this week to lament one of my fantasy football teams. This is a league I joined a few years back on an invitation from a good buddy of mine who had also just recently joined. I looked at the team I would be taking over and realized this was going to be a project of at least a couple of years since it was an auction keeper league with contracts and I didn’t have much to work with. Teams have a 20-man roster with $150 salary cap. There are also two injured reserve spots per team that don’t count towards the cap. Weekly active rosters have nine players – QB, 1 – 3 RB, 1 – 4 WR, 1 – 2 TE, K, and DEF. There is a rookie draft and afterwards an auction to fill out the teams.

The first couple years, my team languished near the bottom of the league. This league plays two head-to-head games per week and my first year I finished with an 11-15 record. I didn’t fare any better in my second season in the league and finished with an identical 11-15 record. Both years, this was good for ninth out of twelve teams.

In 2010, my record fell to a disappointing 7-19 in a year I felt I could make a move up the standings. Instead, I finished eleventh out of the twelve teams. That was the bad news. But the good news was I won the losers bracket in the playoffs – the one bright spot in a frustrating season. Frustrating because I thought I had done well enough in the rookie draft and the auction to show some improvement over the previous two campaigns.

I went back to work to prepare for the 2011 season. Players coming back for my team were Josh Freeman, Marshawn Lynch, Darren McFadden, Beanie Wells, Steve Slaton, Dez Bryant, Wes Welker, Steve Breaston, Eric Decker, and Darrius Heyward-Bey. Due to trades, I had four picks in the two-round rookie draft. The new season started off with Daniel Thomas, Jonathan Baldwin, Delone Carter, and Titus Young added to my roster.

Prior to the auction, I moved Jonathan Baldwin to an injured reserve spot and this left me with seven roster acquisitions to finalize my team entering the season. In the auction, I picked up Cedric Benson, Michael Bush, Fred Jackson, Antonio Gates, Matt Cassel, Shaun Suisham, and the Philadelphia Eagles defense.

I knew going in that the quarterback position was going to be my weakest link but didn’t want to spend the kind of money that the few upper echelon QBs were going for. Hence, I wound up with Matt Cassel to back up Josh Freeman who I (and quite a few others) thought would take a step forward after a decent 2010 season. Little did I know at the time how much of a weak link my quarterbacks would be.

I started off the year with Josh Freeman in my active lineup and kept him there for six weeks. My team was doing well, so I was willing to accept the roller coaster performance I was getting from him. Come Week 7, I decided to drop Freeman and replace him with Matt Cassel, who I thought had the better matchup against the San Diego Chargers. Freeman was playing the Chicago Bears and would have a bye in Week 8. My over-analysis didn’t cost me too much as I managed to split the week’s games despite a meager 2.24 points from Cassel.

Two more sub-par weeks from Cassel and I was still in a very good position to make the playoffs, but I knew I had to make a deal for a better quarterback if I wanted to make any noise in the post-season. I had someone willing to trade me Eli Manning or Drew Brees but I didn’t have the salary room for either of them without dismantling a major portion of my team. So I ended up making a deal for Matt Schaub and felt I was in a good position heading into the home stretch and then the playoffs. Little did I know at the time that the fantasy gods would not be kind to me.

Schaub spent two weeks in my lineup before succumbing to the season-ending injury he suffered. This left me with no other choice but to troll the waiver wire for the quarterback that would take me through the rest of the regular season and into the playoffs. The first pickup I made was John Skelton who proceeded to give me negative 2.04 points for the week. Amazingly, I won both games that week by the strength of the rest of my roster as I still managed to score 145.04 points. But I knew Skelton had to go.

Next up was Matt Leinart who was a little better and gave me 8.28 points on the week. At least it wasn’t a negative number. I scored 171.96 points and split the week – losing to a team who scored a whopping 196.2 points. But Leinart had to go as well.

I picked up Kyle Orton and Matt Hasselbeck. Orton scored 0 points while Hasselbeck scored 5.50 but was on my bench. The rest of my squad wound up with 152.8 points and I added another two victories to my record. Next up was the playoffs.

Week 1 of the playoffs came with Matt Hasselbeck getting the nod for my starting QB. He gave me an anemic 1.76 points but I still managed to win my first playoff game with a total of 142.04 points. This despite a big fat zero from Kevin Smith (who I picked up on waivers earlier in the season) as well. I knew the following week was going to be my toughest test to date as I would be facing the team with the best record in the league courtesy of the post-season seedings. I wasn’t willing to roll with Hasselbeck so I picked up Taylor Yates to start the next game.

Yates gave me 5.98 points and my winning ways were over as I dropped a 136.12–109.86 decision to my opponent. He got 26.96 points out of Matt Ryan while I got lackluster performances from Eric Decker, Wes Welker, and Antonio Gates when I needed them the most. It was back to Kyle Orton for the third-place game the following week, which I proceeded to lose by 13 points.

All told, I had ten different quarterbacks on this team throughout the year, including Alex Smith and Tarvaris Jackson, who didn’t see my active lineup at all. It was a tough year playing the wire and trying to time the best weekly matchup. You can bet next year I’ll start off with better QBs as the big salaries of Welker and Gates will be coming off the books. And hopefully, the fantasy gods will pour out their wrath on someone else.
 
Closing Time
NL Beat
Written by Christopher Kreush   
Wednesday, 21 December 2011 05:15

There are almost as many strategies in playing fantasy baseball as the number of people playing the game. One position where it seems there is a plethora of strategies, or at least very divergent opinions on what should be done, is the closer. Some players say not to chase saves – many become available during the season on the waiver wire or through FAAB. Others, on the other hand, say to get one or two of the elite at the position. Some even say to punt the category altogether depending on what kind of league you are in. Whatever strategy you choose to employ, here is a rundown of the closer situations in the National League.

Atlanta Braves – Craig Kimbrel became part of the bridge to Billy Wagner in 2010, striking out 40 hitters in 20 innings as a 22 year-old. In fact, he did well enough to be considered the forerunner to replacing the retiring Wagner in 2011. Craig was given the closing job and proceeded to rack up 46 saves and was overpowering while doing it with 127 strikeouts in 77 innings. Craig was so impressive he went on to win the Rookie of the Year in the National League and the job is his entering 2012.

Arizona Diamondbacks – J.J. Putz had a bounce back season in 2010 after an injury-riddled stint with the New York Mets. He pitched well enough to be given a chance to close by the Diamondbacks in 2011 and came through with 45 saves and better than a strikeout per inning. Putz is safely ensconced in the closer role again in 2012.

Chicago Cubs – 2010 was a breakout year for Carlos Marmol as the 27-year old went on to save 38 games for the Cubs with slightly over 16.0 strikeouts per nine. His Achilles Heel was allowing bases on balls at the rate of 6.0/9! Marmol followed up 2010 with a 34 save 2011. His strikeout rate decreased to 12.0/9 in the process and he still allowed walks at a 5.8/9 rate. He enters 2012 as the closer once again, but the bases on balls will keep him from entering the ranks of the elite when speaking of closers.

Cincinnati Reds – Cincinnati declined to pick up the option for Francisco Cordero after he closed out 150 games in four seasons and are looking for a closer for the 2012 season. Internal candidates are Nick Masset (who struck out just under eight batters per nine but also walked about four batters per nine) and Aroldis Chapman. The 24-year old struck out 71 hitters in 50 innings but also walked 41. The Reds would like him to crack the starting rotation at some point so chances are good their 2012 closer isn’t even on the team yet.

Colorado Rockies – With the trade of 2011 closer Huston Street to the San Diego Padres, the Rockies are going to run with Rafael Betancourt as closer at this time. He did save eight games for Colorado in 2011 and struck out 73 and walked eight in just over 62 innings of work.

Houston Astros – With the trade of Mark Melancon to the Boston Red Sox, the Astros need to find a replacement for their 20-save 2011 closer. Their internal options to finish off games in 2012 include Brandon Lyon, David Carpenter, Juan Abreu, and Wilton Lopez with Carpenter having the inside track at the moment.

Los Angeles Dodgers – 2011 saw Javy Guerra save 21 games for the Dodgers but Kenley Jansen was arguably the better hurler – especially down the stretch. Jansen is better suited to finish games as he struck out 16.0/9 and walked 4.3/9 while Guerra had a strikeout rate of 7.3/9 while walking 3.5/9. If no one is brought in through trade or free agency the two will compete for the job.

Miami Marlins – Miami solved their Leo Nunez problem by signing Heath Bell to a three-year contract to save games for the Marlins. Bell successfully finished 132 over the past three years for the San Diego Padres and should continue this trend in South Florida. There is some concern his strikeout rate dropped from double digits to 7.3/9 last year.

Milwaukee Brewers – With 46 saves and better than a strikeout per inning, the Brewers are set with John Axford as their closer once again. He has 70 saves to his credit over the last two years and had an ERA under 2.00 in 2011.

New York Mets – The Mets needed a new closer after trading Francisco Rodriguez to the Milwaukee Brewers last July. They first signed Jon Rauch as a free agent and it was thought he would be the closer entering 2012. But the team further revamped their bullpen by signing Frank Francisco shortly thereafter. Francisco is the favorite to start the season as the team’s closer.

Philadelphia Phillies – Philadelphia made the biggest splash in the free agent closer market by signing Jonathan Papelbon to a four-year contract worth $50 million. Thus they parted ways with free agents Brad Lidge and Ryan Madson for the more established Papelbon. In six seasons as the closer for the Boston Red Sox, Papelbon has 188 saves to his credit.

Pittsburgh Pirates – Joel Hanrahan acquitted himself well as the closer in Pittsburgh with 40 saves in 2011 and will be the one called upon to save games in 2012. He struck out less than a batter per inning but kept the ball in the park, allowing only one home run in all of 2011. Not sexy but gets the job done.

San Diego Padres – With the departure of Heath Bell to free agency and ultimately the Miami Marlins, the Padres needed a new closer for 2012. Rather than go with Luke Gregerson, the team acquired Huston Street from the Colorado Rockies to finish off games. Street saved 29 games for the Rockies in 2011 and will benefit from the trade to Petco Park since, as a fly-ball pitcher, he allowed 10 home runs in 58 innings last year.

San Francisco Giants – Brian Wilson has been the team’s closer for the past four seasons but was shut down at the end of 2011 with elbow issues. If there isn’t any recurring problem, he will be the closer again for 2012. If Wilson is unavailable, Santiago Casilla, Sergio Romo, and Jeremy Affeldt could be in the picture for saves.

St. Louis Cardinals – Jason Motte enters 2012 as the closer after being announced as such by new manager Mike Matheny. He pitched well at the end of the 2011 regular season and into the playoffs and World Series and is being rewarded with the first shot at finishing games this coming year.

Washington Nationals – Drew Storen gave a glimpse of what he could do in 2010 and wowed in 2011 with 43 saves and just under a strikeout per inning. He will once again take the mound at the end of games in 2012.

  Closers still available on the free agent market include Kerry Wood, Francisco Rodriguez, Brad Lidge, Ryan Madson and Francisco Cordero.

 
<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 Next > End >>

Page 7 of 13
sex izle hd film izle