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Weekend Hijinks: Why Baseball is Great

LADIES AND GENTLEMEN MAY I HAVE YOUR ATTENTION PLEASE.  I’VE JUST BEEN HANDED A PIECE OF BREAKING NEWS: BASEBALL IS BACK AND IT IS AWESOME.

As I sit here watching the opening weekend of the new baseball season, I cannot help but think about how much I love this sport.  Fantasy baseball has only expanded this love, as now I actually have a reason to care about Willie Bloomquist’s day-to-day game log.  Fantasy baseball comes out somewhere around #115 on the list I have in my head of why baseball is great.  So in honor of the REAL opening day(s) (sorry, Japan), here are a smattering of reasons why baseball is great that are floating in my brain right now.  Enjoy.

#8,536,443,213,991

that’s Chewbacca.  On a pitcher’s mound.

#999,888,777,666 – Laughing at people who don’t get it.

#66 – The Lingo

If the name of our blog wasn’t a clue….

Baseball has a whole dialect, a whole different set of idioms, analogies and traditional phrases that simply don’t make sense.  I made this a general topic so it would include everything from home run calls to dugout talk because it is all great.

2 out hits get you to heaven.

#42 – BASEBALL CARDS!

In his day, he was a handsome man.

They’re going out of style, sort of, but man do I love baseball cards.  Every parent has a story about them.  Seriously, go ask.  They’re the only sports cards that are cool.

Do you know someone, old or young who collected baseball cards?  I’m sure you do.  Do you know anyone who isn’t a complete goof who collected another sports card?  They’re probably weird.  Just sayin’.

#24 – George Kenneth Griffey Jr.

This is meant to be a light and silly post, so I will not spend nearly the appropriate amount of time gushing about one of my favorite players in any sport of all time.  He was a joy to watch, both offensively and especially defensively in his heyday and brought such crazy goofy joy to the sport it was hard not to root for him.  He grinned like a kid every time he made one of his signature up-the-wall catches as if he was surprised by his agility too.  And damn, those catches.  You can see him narrate some of them in a cool MLB.com clip here.  Or MLB.com’s top ten memories here.  Or do a Google search to pull up any of his dozens of jaw-dropping web gems.  He also had one of the greatest baseball games of all time, for N64

classic classic classic

#13 – The Seventh Inning Stretch.

Mr. Caray loved his job

I feel this needs little explanation.  Do other sports take a break and have the whole stadium sing?  I rest my case.

#10 – Peter Gammons

the mustache presented without comment.

Peter Gammons is a national treasure.  I honestly cannot tell you a single negative thing I’ve heard about the guy.  He’s professional, witty, beyond knowledgeable and overall a nice, likable guy.  Oh, and he jams.  He is the baseball reporter reporters strive to be and has been for decades and is a constant in the sport.  So why doesn’t he have a theme song you ask? Oh wait, the fine Youtube user mhouchin created this gem:

Simply splendid.

#9 – Ted Williams (okay, Joe DiMaggio too)

I’m a baseball history junkie and these two players, any and all admitted bias aside, are simply two of the most fascinating men to ever play the game.  If you’ve never read Richard Ben Cramer’s book What Do You Think of Ted Williams Now?  I’ve linked to it for you (click) so you can buy it on Amazon.  Just a revelation on what made Ted tick.  He is a truly unique and uniquely quotable man.  As for DiMaggio, it goes without saying you should learn about him.  From the streak to Marilyn Monroe to having this song written about him (and curiously called out by Simon and Garfunkel.  Joe’s response to Ms. Robinson? “I just did a Mr. Coffee commercial, I’m a spokesman for the Bowery Savings Bank and I haven’t gone anywhere!”  Heh.).  Joe DiMaggio lived a life most of us only dream about and both he and Williams were figureheads of the defining era of baseball, in my opinion.

#5 –   The Sandlot. More generally, baseball movies.

Without baseball, we would never have the greatest sports movie of all time.  We also wouldn’t have this one

Or this one

3 of my favorite quotable scenes of all time.  Thank you, baseball.

#2 – The Knuckleball

Other sports copy it.  Millions try to imitate it.  For me, there is something delightful about the pitch so few can throw.  It kind of makes them like Jedi.  It defies gravity and logic.  It also is my way of cheating and tying in Wiffle Ball into the discussion, as despite what history might say, I’m going to assume someone invented the Wiffle Ball in an attempt to recreate a knuckleball on a smaller scale.  That’s just what I’m choosing to believe.

I’ve sat here trying to think of another sports equivalent and am generally coming up empty.  What else is so odd, rare, yet effective as a knuckleball.  Well, this:

But that only matches in oddness.  Anyone can learn to shoot a free throw like that.  I bet you can’t throw a knuckleball.

#1 – The Fans

Awwww.  Will, you’re such a softie!  No, not exactly.  Baseball fans are such an interesting mix to me.  Some of the smartest minds in the world become complete buffoons when talking baseball and some of the biggest buffoons in the world can instantly make you feel small with their impeccable baseball knowledge.  With the emergence of sabermetrics and advanced statistics, the blending has become even more pronounced.  I don’t think other sports have the same diversity in types of players, employees, and fans.  One of my favorite examples is in Texas, where the Rangers spend millions on Latin players, have a GM who looks like he’s 16 who was a nerd at Cornell, and are owned by one of the most firery farmboy flamethrowers of all time.  There are plenty of things you could tell me are wrong with baseball, but the smash-up of cultures and personalities has always been (and hopefully will continue to be) what makes the sport so deeply fascinating to me, beyond even the game itself.

he owns a team, folks. and the guy getting whupped manages one.

There’s my smattering of reasons.  It is by no means a thorough list (The real list goes on and on in my head.).  To any readers and all people accidentally reading this page in the hopes of finding actual ducks on water, why do YOU like baseball so much?  Let us know in the comments or hit us up on Twitter.

Happy season, everyone.

-w

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MLB Realignment – More is More

This post was originally published on the Emerson College Sports Business Society Website – but it’s genius must be shared

come at me, bro

In many ways, I think of myself as a baseball purist.  I have serious reservations about designated hitters.  I have a firm belief that Nolan Ryan is the only one who understands that regardless of what anyone says, there is nothing magical about that 100th pitch. Just get out there and throw, divas! The most exciting play in the game, for me, is watching a team react to a double-steal bunt.  So with the recent announcement that MLB will be expanding its playoffs, I found myself debating along with millions of other fans whether or not this was a good decision for the sport.

 

On one hand, part of what has made baseball’s playoffs impressive is the level of difficulty it takes to get there.  Unlike football or basketball (hockey doesn’t count because I’m pretty sure they let pee-wee teams into their playoffs until recently), where half of the teams routinely win their division and go to the playoffs, baseball has always been ruthless about who gets in.  They play by far the most games, grinding out victories for months, yet every year there is a team with ninety wins who is left watching from home.

As maddening as it could be for a fan, it’s also pretty cool.  However, this system has always been a double-edged sword, especially in more recent decades, as ballooning payrolls have created a more distinct “class system” among MLB teams.  While we all have every right to moan when a 7-9 team makes the NFL playoffs, the level of parity in football is unmatched in other sports.  The Pittsburgh Pirates, in all likelihood, will not make the playoffs in 2012.  They’re simply not very good.  In most sports, it’s pretty easy to tell which teams will probably be good. In baseball, more so than the other sports, it’s easy to tell, with some certainty, which teams are going to be bad.

Baseball’s playoff structure, while doing a good job of getting the best teams in, has gotten stale.  Nationally, ratings have been in steady decline and there is a general resentment/frustration with the same teams getting in every year (with the occasional oddball like those pesky Rays).  But as I lamented in my MLB Reboot pieces, baseball as an entity is very, very, very painfully stubborn.  And I am too.  I liked the old system and my initial reaction was trepidation.  If they’re not going to go with the widespread change I call for, I’m not one for tinkering.

this was never a good idea.

But that’s why we shouldn’t rush to judgment.  The more I read about and think over this change, the more I like it.  Even as I write this piece, I realize that no, the current Wild Card system is not fair.  The Wild Card is a ‘bonus’ spot.  They did not win a division.  Therefore, common-sensically (a lethal combination of hyphenating and making up words), making the Wild Card teams win an additional game to ‘deserve’ their advancement seems not only reasonable, but also logical.  Of course, the MLB will play up the drama of adding a built-in one-game playoff and there is truth in that notion.  But this decision ripples through baseball on a much broader scale for us as fans.  Maybe the Nationals will make a huge jump this year and sneak into a one-game playoff for the Wild Card.  Perhaps the new rule will jumpstart the Chicago Cubs (laughable).  As a Red Sox fan, though, this new system means only one thing: now we have to worry about those darn Blue Jays too.

 

-w

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Got Yu Where I Want Yu (aka Imagine Me and Yu part Deux)

Gosh, say what you will about the money spent on Yu Darvish, but for those of us masquerading as bloggers, he’s paying for himself 10 times over in puns alone…

In my previous article I discussed how much money it was just to talk to a guy with NO major league experience.  I maintain that stance.  However, that’s more my skepticism with the posting system as a whole than the actual monetary value of Japanese players.  That being said, the Rangers managed to put together a phenomenal deal to actually sign Yu Darvish.  Considering the two sides were a) close on the monetary value (the issue was the extra year) and b) in a situation where he sort of HAD to come over, the whole deal of the contract really boiled down to pride and respect.  Which means, in my opinion, that in some ways making a deal that was respectful and smart likely took much more effort than we laypersons would think.  A GM doesn’t wan’t to get into a ‘Dice-K, Diva’ situation with all kinds of crazy perks and more importantly, a GM/Owner does not want to be in the situation where the incoming foreign player feels ‘disrespected.’  This is what happened to Daisuke Matsuzaka (for a variety of reasons) and I maintain that everything from the smallest issue (picking his masseuse) to the obviously stupid (pitching in the World Baseball Classic- a lot) was a detractor from anything Dice-K could have contributed under his substantial contract.

Yu Darvish, by most accounts and legal documentation, is different.  He made a point upon arrival to tell Rangers GM Jon Daniels he did not want a large ‘posse,’ merely a trainer (who he worked with in Japan) and interpreter (who is a top Rangers scout).  I have ranted about Daisuke not only because I am a disgruntled Red Sox fan, but also to highlight the simplicity and relative sense of the Darvish deal.  From the Rangers financial perspective, as I said in first piece, the deal makes sense merely by the splash a big foreign player can make.  Based on the structure of the deal itself, I think both sides will be very happy.

Darvish has the potential to be an ace, that is for sure.  Nolan Ryan seems excited.  In my readings, many experts and projections see his worst-case scenario being a #2 pitcher or top-tier #3.  Which got me thinking- I like the deal, think he will succeed reasonably well, and I KNOW there are guys with similar upside/realities who get paid a whole lot of money – how would Darvish compare?  His deal, simply, breaks down like this:

2012: $5.5 million
2013: $9.5 million
2014: $10 million
2015: $10 million
2016: $10 million
2017: $11 million

The last year of the deal has an opt-out clause (two explanations here and here) involving Yu’s placing in the Cy Young balloting.  This makes sense for Darvish and seems fair, as Darvish will be allowed to seek more money than his (fairly reasonable) contract originally states if he really does turn out to be an ace.  But I know what you’re saying, “Will, how many pitchers are making over 9 million dollars a year, really?  There are a lot of bad pitchers in baseball,” you say.  And you are correct.  However, I found that by doing some research on the internet, I came across some facts (in the wilderness of the web, there is truth to be found).  Here is the USA Today report of 2011 pitcher salaries.  I’ll pull a few names out to discuss.

don't ask why.

I include the sabermetric measure of WAR (Wins Above Replacement) for these guys because it is a relative, comparative measure.  For those of you who don’t know what WAR is, it essentially is a number comparing how valuable a player is to the team compared to a ‘replacement’ level player from the bench or minor leagues.  You can read a far, far deeper explanation at fangraphs or Baseball-Reference, two of my favorite sites (also where I got contract info), who do an great job going into the statistical breakdown of the metric.  But I digress.

Kyle Lohse (2.5 WAR) made $12,187,500 in 2011 and will make $11,875,000 in 2012(To give you a bearing, Roy Halladay had a WAR of 8.2 in 2011, Jon Lester a 3.7 – in two very different seasons.).  Based on his contract, Yu Darvish will NEVER make that much money with the Rangers!  Do I think Darvish will step in and be as good as Halladay? NOt at all.  Can he come over and be a (much) better pitcher than Kyle Lohse?  You better believe it.  Seriously, you better.

Mark Burhele (3.4 WAR) made $14 million in 2011.  He was another big-name pitcher to sign this offseason, landing with the new look Miami Marlins.  And good for them.  I admire Burhele and his consistency and work ethic.  He eats innings and puts his team in position to win games.  Heck, he was a point of comparison for my rant against the posting fee for Darvish!  But let’s look at that contract a bit closer.  Initially, Mark will bring in $6 million in 2012 – oh, wow, nice- what a steal… wait.  He will then make 11 mil in 2013, 18 in 2014, and 19 in 2015 – seasons in which he will be ages 34,35 and 36, respectively.  As I said, I admire Burhele and the way he works.  But he’s going to be old, no two ways about it.  If you look at the posting fee as a necessary but separate move from the contract, Darvish’s deal compared to the lefty’s is a bargain.

I highlighted the last two because they are solid-if-unspectacular hurlers who made big bucks by being free agents in a good market.  Are they overpaid?  Certainly.  but compared to some, they too are bargains.  So when you look at the Darvish deal compared to, say John Lackey and Barry Zito, things truly come into perspective.  Zito was at least at the top of his game (sort of) when he signed his disasterous deal.  He made $18.5 million in 2009, 2010, and 2011.  His COMBINED WAR in those years was 3.5 (he’ll make $19,20, and 18 million in 2012, 2013 and 2014).  Lackey’s deal with the Red Sox paid him $18.7 million in 2010, $15.95 million in 2011 and $15.25 each year until 2014, when he will be 35. That sound you hear?  It’s Red Sox fans collectively trying to pull every last hair out of their scalps.  (SIDE NOTE: Jake Westbrook makes 8 million a year… and I’m betting Darvish is equally if not more effective than Jake’s 1.1 WAR).

I apologize for all of you who were hoping to avoid any and all sabermetrics in your reading.  To you, I say this: Go see Moneyball.  Brad Pitt is super handsome and it is an excellent movie overall.  It also makes sabermetrics sexy, so there.  I had my reservations about the amounts of money being thrown around in the pursuit of Yu Darvish.  Cut me some slack- I am a tired and true Red Sox fan, I’ve seen the downside to this before.  But upon a closer inspection, I realized just how reasonable the deal was if I separated the posting fee as a business move and the contract itself as a baseball move.  Baseball is both a competitive and comparative sport (hence the Wins Above Replacement).  Whether or not you closely follow baseball or know about sabermetrics, I hope the money and WAR serve as a decent barometer for what is considered a decent pitcher.  Compared to some of the disaster and absurdity we’ve seen in the last few years in pitcher contracts (Mike Hampton, anyone?), if Yu Darvish can consistently throw the ball over the plate, he can at least have the distinction of being at the bottom of the ‘bust’ list.

-w

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Texas Two-Step

As in, step one: buy a sports team.   step two: PROFIT!

Not Jim Crane. Sadly.

Baseball is shaking things up.  Let me rephrase that.  As much as they can allow themselves to become more exciting, baseball is making some changes.  As I outlined brilliantly in my 3-part “Gritty MLB Reboot” series (or rant, depending on how you take it), baseball is in dire need of some different spices in the pot (Part One, Part Two, Part Three).  Perhaps this purchase and movement of the Astros, and the dominoes their scenario knocks around, is a step in the right direction.

Let us address the sale of the Astros and subsequent move to the AL West.  Effective 2013, the Houston Astros will join their Texas brethren in the AL West.  This instantly creates a legitimate in-state rivalry, unlike the ones MLB and Fox try to force upon us when interleague play arrives (my distaste for interleague is a different story for a different day).  The battle for Texas will provide an interesting tweak on both the division it is entering and the one it is leaving.  Competitively, the NL Central loses  a punching bag, as the Astros have been downright astro-cious the past few years.  Horrible puns aside, the World Champion Cardinals especially benefitted from the Astros, going 10-5 against the 100-loss Houston team.  With the additional wild-card games and an added loser (the Astros, undeniably, will be bad for several years at the very least), the AL West becomes legitimate players.  Do the Athletics take a big step forward?  And does their impending success help persuade the A’s move out of woeful Oakland?  The ramifications of this move could prove to be far reaching competitively, financially, and emotionally – if Nolan Ryan would just say something outlandish to stir the pot (I sincerely hope this happens).  This nugget does not suffice:

“I’ve always thought of the Astros as a National League team,” said Rangers team president Nolan Ryan (who played for Houston from 1980-1988.)  “But when I look at it from our perspective, I like it.”

With a big, big TV deal in place and a mini-dynasty in the making, the Rangers surely like the idea of having a bad team to beat up on.  But the Astros, bad as they might be, will benefit from this too.  Texans are stereotypically a competitive lot, so, somewhat counter-intuitively, two teams in the same state should build up both teams’ TV share and attendance.  Jim Crane paid a pretty penny for a struggling team.  But he may have lucked into the perfect storm of circumstance.  Additional playoffs and a Champion-caliber, in-state rival should put the Astros in a good position financially going forward.  Now if they could only find some players.

Here are some other bits from around the league:

–> Infielder Matt Antonelli will undergo a physical on Monday to finalize his major league deal with the Orioles, tweets Dan Connolly of The Baltimore Sun.  Matt’s a good dude.  And he’s from Peabody.  And he’s read our blog before, so he’s wicked smaht.  Good to see Dan Duquette give him a go.  Glad he’s healthy again.

—> Joe Nathan signs a 2 year (3rd year team option) with the Texas Rangers.  This really makes me mad, actually.  I have been saying for several weeks now – louder since Papelbon left for Philadelphia – that the Red Sox should make Daniel Bard a starter and sign Nathan to be their closer.  It was a concept borrowed from these same Rangers, and a damned good one, so they did it with their more-than-a-closer Neftali Feliz.  The worst part of this going forward is now the Red Sox must either overpay for a guy who’s not that good, have open tryouts a-la “Invincible” or… gulp… make Bobby Jenks their closer.

—> Philadelphia Phillies acquire Ty Wiggington for a bag of trail mix.  I’m confused by the Phillies reluctance to sign players or develop players under 30.  Between Jim Thome and Ty Wiggington, the Phillies’ bench seems better equipped for lumberjacking than winning baseball games.

—> The Red Sox are circling around Bobby Valentine for their managerial position.  More details and lots of swearing to come in the following weeks.

—> The MLB is working on a new CBA and it will allegedly address issues such as HGH testing and draft slotting.  More details will begin to emerge and once they announce the official parameters, I will break them down.

 

 

Adios, muchachos, enjoy this phenomenal new Black Keys song and the awesome dancing.  Don’t know how this guy stole my moves.

-w

 

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A Gritty MLB Reboot (part 2 of 3)

This is the second part or my 3-part rant about the current state of the MLB.  It is also up on the Emerson College Sports Business Society website.  My brilliance cannot be held to one mere blog. Enjoy.

 

you look nervous....

One of the key elements of a remake is to venture into totally new territory, while remaining familiar.  In theory, at least, this is the most likely way to proceed. New origin stories, new ways for characters to meet and interact, new interpretations of old ways drive the consumer. We are always curious about ways to repeat ourselves. Part of what makes baseball special is its fascinating history.

Baseball has become bloated with excessive teams and excessive salaries. An expanded playoffs looms.  I’m resigned to the fact that consolidating teams to a more manageable number, allowing more good players on fewer teams, makes entirely too much sense and is a pipe dream for many reasons. I know that something drastic needs to change in our society before player salaries don’t become so ridiculous.  But small changes to the makeup of the league(s) can yield far-reaching results.

The proposed move of the Houston Astros to the American League is a step in the right direction. Jim Crane is a genius if he can get MLB to pay him his requested 50 million dollars for what he has to know is a good idea. If all the MLB teams are going to be hanging around, let’s use that to rile up some pride.  People complain about the Red Sox, Yankees, and Rays playing so often.

But what they don’t realize is that this is a good thing. Any good marketer knows that sometimes it makes more sense to appeal to your strengths. I’m willing to bet viewers will like a big Texas Astros-Rangers showdown.  Play up the states and teams that have history. But, for the love of Honus Wagner, please, please, please don’t think for a second that the rich history of baseball needs to be polluted with any more interleague. The magic is gone, and baseball fans are moving on to see other people. Part of what makes what many consider the most ingenious re-imagining in media recently; The Joker in “The Dark Night,” so interesting within the ethos of the Batman world is his evil presence.  Heath Ledger nailed the role and put everyone on edge by representing a deranged, but realistic “other.”

(quite honestly one of the greatest sports clips you will ever see)

The idea of “the other” is a common phenomenon and is studied across the realms of sociology, psychology, marketing, PR, and many facets of the media in general. The concept of “the other,” the “barbarians at the gates,” an unseen opposition is the driving force of suspense throughout literature both new and old, and is fundamental in any horror movie (yes, even the bad ones). It’s a fascinating notion, how humans instinctively react to outsiders and strangers.

Here’s the contradictory dilemma; technology has outpaced baseball (we’ll get to that in a moment). Anyone can see any game with the right platform and a few clicks of the mouse. Not only is the magic gone, but apparently so is the mystery. Everyone needs an “other.” Everyone needs a villain. Or at least a worthy adversary.  MLB will never be the same as the old days, when the World Series came around and people had “holy cow” moments seeing a great player from an opposing league- fantasy sports and television have erased that notion of surprise. Two fully separate leagues with two newly established identities (a gradual, nuanced part of the process too detailed to truly envision now) can help provide an “us vs. them” feeling for both sides.

This brings me to the All-Star game. Sigh. Oh how the mighty have fallen. I honestly do not see the right answer for the league. On the one hand, taking only the flashiest of All-Star concepts and borrowing from the NBA could be fun. Skill competitions and celebrities drives viewers, drives interest, and in this new era of 25/7 (not a typo) news coverage, steady coverage during a break. Making the MLB All-Star game a summer hangout destination could be a money-making phenomena. Concerts, showcases, and festivals take place even in what we might take for the most boring city.

Done right, an MLB All-Star Weekend similar to the NBA could be a brilliant shift for a commissioner (though it is highly unlikely Bud would allow this to happen in his reign). However, running with the current state of baseball, a strategist may have to shift their goals based on the current mess. If the All-Star game is going to count, it should count. MLB should figure it out whether it be with contractual guarantees, a deal with the players union or a Commissioner descending from his office with a new set of unwritten baseball commandments. Baseball needs to assess a way to make its players care about the game like they used to in the sport’s past, when the players’ pride factored heavily into All-Star games.

Perhaps I am naïve to think something as simple as a re-branding of National vs. American League as us vs. them will spark that much more passion. If Bud Selig continues to remind us that “this time it counts,” there is only so much one can do. But in that mindset, of pitting the leagues more prominently as, pardon the ugly phrase, ‘separate but equal,’ will lead to a slightly altered playoff/All-Star Game relationship: With the additional rounds, the All-Star winning league gets home field advantage in the first 3 rounds. The World Series? A coinflip. It must be. An added air of mystery to the battle of the leagues.

 

 

 

stay tuned, part 3 is coming very soon!

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2011 Favorites: First Base

get it? first base?

Wanna know how I got this sweet ass piiiiiiic?  Cuz I’m faaaasssst.  No intro this time, just hope you realize this is not meant to be a comprehensive list of First Basemen, one of those deeper positions in fantasy.  No, these are some guys I’m spotlighting because they fit into these categories I have created because I have created this blog.  So there.  Read on party people (all 13 of you) and remember- it’s time for Christmas music on the radio, that means mock drafts are coming soon…

Young Studs

Freddie Freeman

Derek Lee out, Freddie in?  With all the upside and hype this 2007 draft pick… wait no that was the first round pick Mr. Heyward.  Outside of baseball circles, Freeman did not receive the same kind of hype.  The Bravos love him.  Scouts love him.  Yo momma loves him.  Honestly, though, all reports indicate that Freeman has a sweet, smooth stroke and is ready for a shot at the big show.  The Braves are on the cusp (if not already firmly entrenched) of a serious youth movement and though Adrian Gonzalez might be a fit, well, I can’t say it any better than MLBTR : “The Braves are a logical landing spot for Adrian Gonzalez, but they’re also very high on first base prospect Freddie Freeman. The last time they traded for a first baseman with a year-plus left on his contract, they basically rebuilt the Texas Rangers.”

If that’s not reason enough to give Freeman a shot, I don’t know what is.  Freeman projects to have decent power and a good contact swing.  I’d wait to hear how the Braves’ offseason goes before you slot him into your draft board, but given the shot, he could be a 15-20 homer, 85 RBI, .300-ish average guy.  Like I said, he’s got a smooth swing.

Brett Wallace

 

He almost got slid down into the “remember me?” section.  It seems like Brett Wallace has been all over in the last two years, and he kind of has.  Firmly settled in what they’re trying to build in Houston, it is time for Wallace to shine and prove all the scouts, bloggers, and GMs right.  With short porches to both left and right (and that silly-ass mound in center), a good hitter to all fields like Wallace should adjust well to his home park, much like his predecessor Lance ‘Fat Elvis’ Berkman did before he became part of the Dark Side and got old.  Wallace has put up good numbers in THREE organizations’ AAA affiliates and has nothing left to prove on that stage.  His time is now and he is worth taking a shot on.

Brandon Allen

Given some playing time in the outfield, Allen played OK for the D-Backs (and made an all-season great catch).  But with the team not picking up Adam Laroche, Allen could see more time at first as well.  He’s been kicking around for a while but is still only 24 and has always projected to be a monster power threat (the dude is 6’2” 235!) and looks to be getting a shot to showcase some of that pop for the free-swinging Diamondbacks.  Allen will  be on my watch list to start the season, to see how he adjusts.  His K-rate could be a killer but if he settles  into a role for the D-Backs, he could be a valuable power pickup as the season progresses.

 

Don’t-Forget-About-These Guys

Gaby Sanchez

I don’t mean this to be mean or harsh, but did anyone realize how solid a year Gaby Sanchez had?  He trailed off in September as young players are wont to do.  Would anyone in fantasy complain about a first baseman who hit .270 with 15-20 homers and 80+ RBI?  You could do a LOT worse with your CI spot or backup first baseman (I’m looking at you Chris Davis).  Take this past season as a starting block, too.  The guys just a young fella!  Sort of.  But he’ll be 27 this year, and you know what that means… right?  It means he’ll be good, science proves it.  In fact scientists in China are working on a serum to make athletes 27 forever… probably.  I foresee Sanchez improving on his already solid year and putting together a season worth owning.  Plan accordingly in your draft strategy.

Garrett Jones

Garrett Jones did not have a 2010 fantasy season to take home to Mom.  It was more like a season you regret waking up to in your dorm room the next morning – that is, it was ugly, but had a few redeeming points.  For example, Jones still hit 21 homers, proving his breakout campaign’s power was no fluke.  Jones suffered for two reasons I see: a worse walk rate and a worse BABIP.  With a better walk rate, it ensures Jones isn’t striking out as much.  With his breakout year, his BABIP was almost 50 points better than his drunken mistake of a year in 2010.  His AAA numbers continue this story, making me think an improvement in BABIP and more patience at the plate, even slightly, will improve Jones’ year enough for him to be a late round steal for someone- make it you.

 

The Inception Play

Mitch Moreland

To be fair, I was rooting hard for the Rangers in the Playoffs and developed a playoff-crush on Moreland, who had a nifty playoffs, playing his way OUT of a platoon (Jorge Cantu, we hardly knew ye).  He was solid in the minors, has a great swing and has worked hard to be a good, smart hitter.  Moreland figures to have played well enough for the Rangers to not try Chris Davis again, so fantasy owners won’t have to play him either!  Unless Chris Davis has nekked pictures of Nolan Ryan or something.  Moreland will get lots of AB’s and I am very curious as to what he will do with them.  Maybe not draft-worthy, but who knows, stranger things have happened (like the Giants beating up Cliff Lee).

 

That’s all I’m giving you.  I know there are any number of options at first base, but these are the guys I’m thinking of for the upcoming draft season.  If you disagree, do it on the interweb!  I’d love to have a discussion about guys to watch in 2011 and I’m sure many of the 13 of you all have opinions!

 

I’m done, enjoy Vodka & Milk remixes

 

-w

 

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