Since I started writing about fantasy baseball for The Hardball Times, I’ve tried to stay within the friendly confines that have been set before me. I have avoided the feather ruffling, if you will. Well, it’s time to shake things up a bit. Be forewarned, two of the four players on this list are no doubt hall-of-famers. Some of these guys I have rostered over the years, and they played pivotal roles in my championships.
Without further ado, it’s time for Part I in “Ben’s Aversion All-Stars” (aka The Hate List).
Mariano Rivera RP NYY- Rivera stands alone atop the list of the greatest closers in the history of Major League Baseball. His cut fastball can be argued as the most spectacular pitch ever. With his unwavering intensity and impeccable control, Rivera set the bar for all the future relievers that would follow him.
With all that said, Rivera is dead to me. Upon his headstone will be many great accomplishments, but a member of my fantasy team will not be one of them. Something tells me that Brian Cashman knows the end is nearer than people think. With the Rafael Soriano bailout plan in place, Cashman is revealing that Rivera’s swan song is upon us.
At 41, Rivera is finally wearing down. I must say he pitched well through injuries in 2010, but there are still kinks in the metal of the “Hammer of God.” His second-half splits show a rise in ERA to 2.60. It’s also time to talk about that famed cutter that has been on a downward decline since 2005 (93 MPH) to 2010 (91.1). This decline in velocity could explain the striekouts per nine innings (6.8 K/9) regression that was his worst in four years. I’m not a Rivera hater or detractor, but if there was ever a time that I would pass on Mo, that time is now.
Adrian Beltre 3B TEX- In 2004, Beltre made us all believers. From 2005 to 2009, he made us forget. In 2010, he made us believers again. Now that it’s 2011, it’s time to forget Beltre.
I know that sounds a little harsh, and it probably is. But I remember what happened in Seattle. Nagging injuries and general frustration haunted Beltre. The arrival in Boston offered him a fresh start, and you can’t blame the guy for taking advantage of it.
Beltre, now a Texas Ranger, is traditionally a pull-hitting right-hander. Upon further review, all his home runs in 2010 were in ballparks that favored a right-handed hitter better than Arlington (with the exception of the one he hit in Texas). The home run Beltre hit at AT&T was to left-center field, which again favors him better than his new home in Texas.
His .339 BABIP suggests that his .321 BA is destined to correct itself. His speed is gone; so you can take that out of his bag of tricks. After you adjust for home runs, batting average, lack of speed, and his full wallet, expect a regression to 2008 levels with a slightly better BA, something like .279 BA/24 HR/80 RBI/3 SB/75 R.
Again, this is all assuming he stays on the field and gets healthy, pain-free at-bats. All I am saying is that losing out on one of the big-five third basemen should not make you rush into Beltre (50 ADP). I would roster him if he was cheap enough, but I sincerely doubt that he will be undervalued.
Focus on Aramis Ramirez (102.98 ADP) or Pablo Sandoval (160.51 ADP), whom you can get in later rounds. Pedro Alvarez (85.56 ADP) could also be an interesting play if you are willing to live with the batting average uncertainty.
Derek Jeter SS NYY- You know there are people in certain circles that proclaim Derek Jeter as the greatest player in the storied history of the Yankees. So Babe Ruth, Lou Gehrig, Mickey Mantle, move along because Jeter is king of the Bronx (insert tongue in cheek).
I will give Jeter his fair credit. He is one of the top five shortstops in MLB history that stayed at shortstop throughout their careers. He is also a great Yankee, and can be considered the starting SS on their all-time team.
We here at The Hardball Times recently held our first mock draft of 2011. In it, we found that middle infielders are going to be at a premium. Hanley Ramirez, Troy Tulowitzki, Jose Reyes, Jimmy Rollins…then we saw Derek Jeter roll off the board to Jeffrey Gross with the 40th overall selection.
I’m not saying that Jeter doesn’t offer a decent line for a shortstop. Taking into account his 2nd half demise, I’m projecting an optimistic line of .285 BA/11 HR/75 RBI/14 SB/103 R. That’s decent, right? But is it that much different than what Alexei Ramirez offers you at a cheaper price?
These are valid questions because Jeter isn’t getting any younger, and to grab him as the 40th overall selection means you are bypassing ace-level pitchers and gobs of talented players that will give substantially more fantasy value (Kendry Morales, Andre Ethier, Jason Heyward, etc…).
As for me, I’ll wait, because fantasy championships are won by balancing statistics over all your players. If Jeter’s perceived value is too high (which it normally is), then you pass, grab Kendry Morales, and wait for Stephen Drew to fall to you in the eighth. Adapt to succeed.
Grady Sizemore OF CLE- Oh, Grady, oh, Grady, wherefore art thou, Grady? His five tools draw us in like the smell of bacon on the stove in the morning, but Grady’s sizzle has, for lack of a better word, fizzled.
Forgive his lack of home runs in 140 plate appearances of an injury-riddled 2010 season. He supposedly had successful microfracture surgery on his knee. For those of you who are unfamiliar with microfracture surgery, you should read up on how it affects our friends in the NBA. It lingers.
So let’s assume that Sizemore sees his stolen bases fall by 30 percent or so. How about a round number of 20 steals? Picture a return in power from zero home runs in 2010 and 18 in 2009 to another round number of 20 home runs. So Sizemore is a 20/20 guy again.
What did we forget? Yes, we forget that pesky batting average. Sizemore has struggled with his BA for his entire career. To believe that he will be any better than his career averages is wishful thinking. If anything, I’d project a .250 BA at best.
So the greatest Grady Sizemore that you can allow yourself to project is .250 BA/20 HR/20 SB. He was the 83rd selection in our mock and 97.8 ADP on Mock Draft Central. I can’t live with a ceiling that low on any of my top 15 picks. I’d be interested to see how many of those five tools he’ll be able to show in 2011.
Leave him alone. Let one of his Grady’s Ladies gobble him up. If you want this skill set, wait a hundred picks (ten rounds) and grab Drew Stubbs. He’ll be better anyways.
Stay tuned next Monday for the next four in my fantasy doghouse. Hopefully this list will show you that it’s not all roses in the draft. You have to be smart. You must not only know the guys you like, but you must also know the guys you don’t like. Knowing the guys you don’t like will allow you to strategize better and make those impulse picks count. Adapting to succeed requires a thorough knowledge and idea of all the players available to you whether you love ‘em or hate ‘em.