Thursday, February 5, 2009

Erik: Ben Has Options

Here's the next baseball blog after along absence:
Now that Andrew has added another fantasy football championship to his collection, I gladly continue to look forward to fantasy baseball.

The team that has the most decisions to make this offseason is The Inoculators. By my count, Ben has 16 legitimate keeper candidates. At different points since last season ended, Ben has said he wanted all five of his keepers to be hitters or pitchers. With no idea what to expect from The Inoculators heading into 2009, I will take an unbiased look at what Ben could/should do.

Possible Keeper – Round Drafted

James Shields – 8
Clay Buchholz – 13
Jon Lester - 15
Josh Hamilton – 17
Evan Longoria – 18
Joba Chamberlain – 19
Matt Garza - 19
Cameron Maybin - 23
Joey Votto – 24
David Price – 25
Jair Jurrjens - 27
Mike Pelfrey - Undrafted
Mike Aviles – Undrafted
Carlos Quentin – Undrafted
Justin Upton - Undrafted
Ryan Braun – Undrafted

Assuming Ben decides to keep all hitters or pitchers, let’s take a look at his options:

Possible Hitters

Josh Hamilton
Evan Longoria
Cameron Maybin
Joey Votto
Mike Aviles
Carlos Quentin
Justin Upton
Ryan Braun

Despite their youth, I would consider Hamilton, Longoria and Braun three sure-fire All-Stars that Ben could build his team around. The White Sox’ Quentin went crazy last year before a wrist injury derailed his breakout campaign. It would have been nice for The Inoculators to see a full year’s worth of that production before locking him up as a keeper. Upton and Maybin have a world of potential, but the jury is out on when they will begin to recognize that potential. Votto quietly had a stellar rookie year and looks to benefit from playing 81 games per year in Cincinnati.

Possible Pitchers

James Shields
Clay Buchholz
Jon Lester
Joba Chamberlain
Matt Garza
David Price
Jair Jurrjens
Mike Pelfrey

Tying your fate to young pitchers is a risky endeavor unless you have the depth to replace from within when the inevitable injury takes place. Starting at the top, Shields is a very solid #2 pitcher but not an amazing value in the eighth round. Lester became one of the best pitchers in the game down the stretch last year. However, Lester, along with Shields, Chamberlain, Garza and Price, plays in the power-hungry American League East which can be a nightmare for pitchers and the fantasy nerd who owns them. On top of pitching in the AL East, Chamberlain has no clear role heading into next season and might not be worth the keeper spot if he stays in the set-up role all season. Price is an amazing talent who has the potential to be absolutely dominating. However, it is not yet known how the Rays will use Price to limit his workload in ’09. Finally, Jair Jurrjens had a great season in 2009, but he might not have the firepower in the strikeout department to earn keeper-status.

Expected Keepers for the Inoculators

Josh Hamilton – 17
Evan Longoria – 18
David Price - 25
Ryan Braun – Undrafted
Carlos Quentin - Undrafted

Although Ben says he wants to keep all hitters or pitchers, I think the potential of Price will win him over. With the other four spots, the hitters will win out because of their increased value in The League last year and a line-up centered around Hamilton in center, Quentin in right, Braun in left and Longoria at third will be hard to match-up with. Keeping these hitters will also allow Ben to fill in his pitching early as he won’t cost himself any early draft picks.

Ranking of Possible Keepers: 1 of 4: I rank Ben’s team first for two reasons. Number one, he has the best list of keepers so far. Number two, Ben always gets ranked first and never finishes there. With that in mind, I’ll rank him first and hope that the outcome is the same.
In all honesty, nobody can match up with the value Ben could have with Hamilton, Longoria and Braun. With those three, The Inoculators could have three top ten players with none being drafted higher than the 17th round. The only negative to these predicted keepers is the lack of established pitching, and injury risk.

Hamilton, Price and Quentin have all had injury issues in the past and none have performed at a consistently high level for more than one year. With that being said, The Inoculators could be the team to beat heading into 2009 ... but we all know that won't really happen.