Each year, a number of us from Mastersball.com are fortunate enough to be included in the best Fantasy Baseball pre-season magazine. It is called "The Fantasy Baseball Guide - Professional Edition" and edited by that Superhero, Rotoman. For many of us, the contribution is a list of "Picks and Pans" where we try to predict which players readers should target or avoid.
Before attempting to objectively assign a grade to my own predictions, a few disclaimers are in order...
1) While the publication itself hits the shelves in anticipation of Spring Training, our lists need to be submitted well before the December holidays. At that point, numerous free agents haven't signed and many MLB roster roles haven't been determined.
2) The Old Duck always attempts to focus on players that are more marginal than the obvious fantasy stars. You don't need me to tell you that Mike Trout is a good player, you need me to find you a bargain or to steer you away from an over-rated player. Taking this approach is more fun but also more challenging.
3) One lesson to take away from this exercise is that being an "expert" has a price. Most of the opponents sitting around the draft table in March/April have read the magazine and already know my thoughts about many players. Having your name in print is a reasonable excuse for sharing information, but for those of you in home leagues, make sure you keep your opinions to yourself in the company of your mortal enemies.
So, without pulling any punches, let's see how the Quacker made out...
> CODY ALLEN - PICK - When a young reliever strikes out 88 batters in 70 IP and his team is fed up with the existing closer, that would be called an opportunity. - Put up 6W, 24 SV, 2.07 ERA & 1.06 WHIP to earn close to $20 in Roto value...Grade "A"
> HENDERSON ALVAREZ - PAN - While only 24, he's too much of an enigma...allowed only 90 hits on 102 IP, but strikes out just 5 batters per 9 IP...too confusing. - I shouldn't have been so confused as he exceeded expectations with 12 W & a 2.65 ERA even though he still had a low K rate...Grade "C"
> ELVIS ANDRUS - PICK - We've become spoiled and taken him for granted...has five full MLB seasons and will only be 25 on opening day...swiped 42 of 50 bases in 2013. - A slight drop-off from '13 with a .263 BA & 27 SB, he still earned $18...Grade "B"
> NORICHIKA AOKI - PICK - Don't be fooled by the fact that he's 32...plug in 10 HR's, 25 SB's, .285 BA for 550 AB's and bid accordingly. - Had some rough patches but managed 17 SB's & that exact .285 BA while filling the Royals black hole in RF and earning $17...Grade "B"
> HOMER BAILEY - PICK - Despite the horrible first name for a pitcher and the fact that he toils at Great American, this guy has figured it out...had 199 K's and his ERA could have been a half-run less based on raw numbers. - Pitched OK for 2/3 of the season before getting hurt with 9 W & a 3.71 but disappointed fantasy owners...Grade "C"
> GORDON BECKHAM - PAN - An example of a team being fooled by hype just like a fantasy player. - Hope you followed this advice, as he hit .226 in 446 AB's with single-digit HR & SB...Grade "A"
> PETER BOURJOS - PICK - If healthy, watch where he lands this off-season...a regular job in CF somewhere produces 10-15 HR's & 20-25 SB's...turns 27 on opening day. - Never got it going offensively with a .231 BA and a $4 Roto contribution, he eventually lost the starting job in St. Louis...Grade "D"
> MICHAEL BRANTLEY - PICK - Seems to be improving each year as he moves into his age 27 season. - The best advice of the year, he had a $40+ fantasy campaign with 20 HR's, 23 SB and a .327 BA...Grade "A"
> A.J. BURNETT - PICK - If he doesn't retire and returns to Pittsburgh, don't be duped by the fact that he's 37...had 209 K's in 191 IP. - Despite nagging injuries, he stayed on the mound for 34 starts, but 8 W and a 4.59 ERA didn't help your cause...Grade "C"
> BILLY BUTLER - PAN - At the age where a spike was expected, he went from 29 to 15 HR's...that physique will age quickly. - Right on the money, he hit 9 HR with a .271 BA while barely earning double-digit dollars...Grade "A"
> MARLON BYRD - PAN - The book should be called "Cheaters Hit The Lottery" with him and Melky on the cover...a career year at age 36 equals $16 Million...as Yakov Smirnoff once said, "America is a wonderful country". - My personal prejudice against PED guys got the best of me and he earned $20 with 25 HR's...Grade "D"
> MELKY CABRERA - PAN - Has never had a decent season when he wasn't "juiced". Another former cheater who had a productive year with a .301 BA & 16 HR's...Grade "D"
> MATT CAIN - PICK - Hope his 8-10 record lowers the perceived value in your league...based on raw stats, his ERA should have been closer to 3.15 than the actual 4.00. - As always, injuries will mess up predictions as he only made 15 starts...Grade "C"
> ALLEN CRAIG - PICK - His late-season injury might give you a slight discount in March...was the best clutch hitter in baseball and his lifetime OPS is .850. - A big miss, as he never showed any of the form we saw in 2013, he hit .215 in over 450 AB's and was barely rosterable...Grade "D"
> NELSON CRUZ - PAN - At age 33 coming off a PED suspension, let someone else take the risk...could be this year's Melky Cabrera. - Another empty swing for the Duck (and lots of MLB teams), he resurrected his reputation with 40 HR's...Grade "C"
> DAVID DEJESUS - PAN - The Rays are really smart, but a contract extension for 34 year-old OF with no power, no speed and no batting average over .263 since 2010? - The Rays are a smart organization but not this time, as they paid for a .248 BA and 19 RBI's...Grade "A"
> RYAN DEMPSTER - PAN - Last June, I traded Koji Uehara for Ryan Dempster...need I say more? - Retired before the season even started due to "physical reasons"...Grade "B"
> ADAM EATON - PAN - Was over-hyped last Spring and didn't have the elbow surgically repaired...don't make a significant investment. - Was better than I thought, but not as good as the hype with only 1 HR & 15 SB's...Grade "C"
> ALCIDES ESCOBAR - PAN - Sucked in many Fantasy players with his 2012 stats at the plate...swiped 22 bases last season without getting caught, but a .259 OBP doesn't cut it. - Improved his OBP to .317 and swiped 31 bases...Grade "C"
> MARCO ESTRADA - PICK - At age 30, he's not a prospect anymore, but 261 K's in 266 IP over the last two seasons is intriguing. - In the rotation for half the season, then relegated to the bullpen but he still managed 127 K's in 151 IP...Grade "C"
> DANNY FARQUHAR - PICK - New closers are never secure, but 79 K's in 56 IP is impressive...let others focus on his 4.20 ERA. - Never got the chance to close but as a set-up man, produced a 2.66 ERA with 81 K's in 71 IP...Grade "B"
> CURTIS GRANDERSON - PAN - Some MLB team will pay dearly for those two 40-HR seasons he had at Yankee Stadium, but if he doesn't land in a HR haven, focus on the .261 lifetime BA and declining speed at age 33. - The Mets were the suckers and the "Grandyman" hit .227 in 564 AB's to destroy your team's BA...Grade "A"
> ROBERTO HERNANDEZ - PAN - Needs to try a third name...maybe Fausto Seaver? - This was more of a joke than a prediction but he did make 29 NL starts and produced a negative Roto value...Grade "A"
> EDWIN JACKSON - PAN - Every pitcher who gets a 4-year, $50+ Million deal this off-season should send him a thank-you card...he set the market for durable, journeyman hurlers and paid off with 18 losses and a 4.98 ERA. - Got even worse with 15 losses and a 6.33 ERA...Grade "A"
> CASEY JANSSEN - PICK - Under-rated and very good as a closer...56 out of 61 Save opportunities the last two seasons. - Started the year on the DL but still produced 25 saves...Grade "B"
> IAN KINSLER - PAN - Middle infielders start to fade at this age (32)...had only 13 HR's & 15 SB's in 2013, so don't pay for the stats he had in his 20's. -Stayed healthy and had a productive season with 17 HR's, 15 SB's and over 90 RBI's...Grade "C"
> JAMES LONEY - PAN - Perception is reality...his numbers for the Rays last year were almost identical to the stats he had with the Dodgers in 2011...he was a goat then and a hero now, so just understand what you're getting. - If you paid for more than 9 HR's & 4 SB's, you didn't heed this advice...Grade "B"
> JED LOWRIE - PAN - Hit .290 with 15 HR's but was the worst fielding SS in the AL...defense might not matter to you, but it matters to MLB organizations. - A .249 BA, 6 HR's & Zero SB isn't an offensive machine...Grade "B"
> CAMERON MAYBIN - PICK - Missed almost all of 2013, but swiped 66 bags the two previous seasons and the injury wasn't related to his legs. - Once again, injuries ruined his season and he's now gone from prospect to suspect...Grade "C"
> BRIAN MCCANN - PAN - He'll get a boatload of money as a 30 year-old free agent Catcher, but you should be more conservative...his composite BA for the last two seasons is .242. - Only a late-season surge got him over 20 HR's and he never adjusted to defensive shifts while hitting .232 (just like I told you). Everyone who invested $20+ at the draft table didn't get half of their money back...Grade "A"
> JHONNY PERALTA - PAN - Wasn't a great defensive SS and if he ends up being a corner OF somewhere with no juice, steer clear. - My 4th whiff on PED guys, his 21 HR's helped produce a $17 return...Grade "D"
> SALVADOR PEREZ - PICK - A 24 year-old Catcher with over 900 MLB AB's and a lifetime .301 BA...oh, and he's the best defensive backstop in the AL. - Solid season with 17 HR's & 70 RBI's but only hit.260...Grade "B"
> GLEN PERKINS - PICK - If he's still the Twins closer come March, a rock-solid pick. - "Solid" was correct with 34 Saves...Grade "A"
> HANLEY RAMIREZ - PAN - Had a 1.040 OPS in 304 AB's last season...the previous year, it was .759 in 604 AB's...don't pay for 2013's performance. - '14 was somewhere in-between with a .817 OPS and a $20+ season, but you paid more than that at the draft...Grade "B"
> TANNER ROARK - PICK - Sometimes it takes a while for young pitchers to figure it out...between AAA and majors in 2013, he allowed only 123 hits in 159 IP. - For a single-digit price in most leagues, you got 15 W and $18 in value...Grade "A"
> ANIBAL SANCHEZ - PICK - I told you to draft him last year...hope you did. - Injuries interrupted his season but managed 8 W's with a 3.43 ERA & 1.10 WHIP...Grade "C"
> DREW SMYLY - PICK - If he's in the Tigers rotation, sneak him onto your roster...in 76 IP, had 81 K's and only 17 BB. - Flourished in Tampa after the trade and ended up with 9 W's & a 3.24 ERA, so if you got him cheap, you'll be happy in '15...Grade "B"
> DREW STUBBS - PAN - Don't be sucked in by the power-speed potential...his lifetime BA is .239. - Even in Denver, he wasn't a full-time player but the altitude helped his stats and he earned $20...Grade "C"
> JONATHAN VILLAR - PICK - This is somewhat iffy because he only hit .243 in 210 AB's, but if he plays everyday, 35+ SB's will help your cause. - Never hit enough to keep the starting gig and 17 SB's don't make up for a .209 BA...Grade "D"
Statistics can be manipulated to reach a number of different conclusions, but the Quacker did manage "A" or "B" ratings on 54% of the players and without cheaters in the mix, it would have been 60%. The overall GPA was about 2.7, which matches my blood alcohol level in college. The good news is that Aoki, Brantley, Janssen, Roark and Smyly were helpful members on my fantasy squads...hope they helped you too.