2011 aversion all stars: part I

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?

For that matter, is it that much different from Starlin Castro, Stephen Drew, Tsuyoshi Nishioka, or even Ian Desmond?

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.

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  1. Cheap Sports Apparel said...

    Throughout the history of the NBA, the question of the power of individual stars to define team success has been raised. In 2011, Blake Griffin of the Los Angeles Clippers has brought up the question again, but fans in Los Angeles were reminded just in the past decade of the inability of a single player to carry a franchise. Kobe Bryant of the Lakers has the best in the league at his position for the better part of his career, but he was unable to keep his team in contention after losing key components of the three-championship teams of the early 2000s. Despite this, the spectacular Blake Griffin makes a case for the issue to be revisited.

    The Clippers have not been relevant in the NBA in years, and Clippers merchandise hasn’t been flying off shelves in a long time. Though Griffin has had a breakout year and seemingly willed his team to victories, he can only do so much for his squad if not surrounded by consistently-productive teammates. After all, the year that Kobe scored 81 points in one game, the Lakers were not able to compete for a title. What players like Griffin can do, especially when surrounded with players like young Eric Gordon and veteran Baron Davis, is help build chemistry and consistency. Only a deep team will key a title for the Clippers, but until then, fans shouldn’t hesitate to nab Clippers merchandise, and Teamprowear is the site to get it. The franchise is on the upswing, and the team will be a threat to surprise a contender in the playoffs.

    Though not necessarily on the same level talent-wise, the OTHER team from Los Angeles has the potential to be the NBA’s next Oklahoma City Thunder, making the playoffs and challenging a stronger team in the first round (and potentially beyond). The number of fans that to the team in 2010 surely showed evidence of an elevated interest and confidence in the resilient club out west. Southern California (and the rest of the nation) has been entranced by the highlight reel of Griffin, and whether or not he pulls them to the playoffs and beyond this season, the team has potential to rise in the future. Perhaps, hope is finally showing its face for a perennially disenchanted fan base, and Teamprowear is prepared to provide the gear needed to celebrate L.A.‘s rebirth.

  2. Hizouse said...

    I have a sudden urge to sell my Jeter baseball cards and buy Clippers gear.
    Those of us who periodically give up on Mo are sure to be right one of these years.

  3. Ben Pritchett said...

    Nicely played Hizouse. You’d think if you were trying to hock Clippers junk, you’d target a basketball audience and not the most devoted baseball fans on the internet.

    We will be right about Rivera this year. I feel like the Yankees, in general, are very suspect this year. I guess the Rays are suspect too. They could still sneak into the playoffs as a wild card, but I just don’t see where CC can pitch all 162 games.

  4. Will Hatheway said...

    Ben -

    I’ve only read the first part, but as someone who early on in my fantasy “career” drafted Mo, I couldn’t agree more w/ you, not least because you are going to get sub-average Ks, but also because the Yankees simply hit too many runs to offer up as many chances for saves as, say, the Royals last year, and many other teams like them, who when they won they tended to win much closer than NY. I mean, if you’re going to pay for peripherals, you better get them, and if you are gonna pay for saves, you better max out, and in Mo’s case you are REALLY going to pay yet get neither in spades, IMO.

  5. Brad Johnson said...

    Jeter’s probably the only guy I’d consider targeting from this group. That’s mostly a function of the terrible depth at SS. With Jeter, as long as he’s not drafted by a Yankees fan, I usually suggest that people draft a more talented outfielder or pitcher in the teens, draft a slop SS near the end of the draft, and try to flip that extra guy from the teens for Jeter (or Alexei or whomever) a month into the season.

    I don’t understand why people expect anything from Grady this year. I’d rather own a starting Michael Brantley personally and that’s not saying much. I’d consider a pick in the 20’s or for less than $3. I expect negative production.

    I like Beltre in 2011, I really do. I just don’t like where he’s getting drafted. There’s too much doubt in my mind about his expect performance to justify investing in him over any number of similarly ranked options like Youkilis or Zimmerman.

    Last but not least, I’m not writing Mo off per se but I’m looking to draft him around where I’d be picking a guy like Huston Street rather than as a top closer off the board.

    So we’re pretty much in agreement smile good stuff.

  6. Jeff Nichols said...

    I know this is probably nit-picking but Brian Cashman was clearly against the Soriano signing. If anything, Cashman feels that Mo has more than enough in the tank that he felt the signing of Soriano was a misallocation of resources. I’ll take Cashman’s opinion of a player’s talent level over a Steinbrenner’s everytime.

  7. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Brad Johnson- Glad we agree, and if you look at my Jeter projections, they aren’t bad at all. I just don’t believe he’s going to be able to produce that much more than that next tier that seems so much cheaper.

    @Will Hatheway- You only really need to read half of what I write, anyways. The other half is coded messages to the CIA.

  8. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Jeff Nichols- You are exactly right. I should have used a “Yankees brass” phrase there instead. But I think his disagreement with the signing pertained to the losing of their first round pick in the draft not necessarily to the Rivera insurance policy side of the Soriano signing. I also wouldn’t give Cashman too much credit. He has made some iffy moves or lack there of.

  9. BalugaWhale said...

    Fantastic beginning to the Sizemore write-up. Not sure if come March you’ll be able to get Stubbs 100 picks later anymore (he seems like someone who will start to climb ADP rankings) but I agree to stay away from Grady.

  10. Brad Johnson said...

    I think picking Stubbs where Sizemore is going now is entirely justifiable. Especially in an “expert” league.

    If you can get a potential 5 tooler (and at the very least, a HR/Sb threat) at pick 100, you’re doing alright for yourself.

  11. Ben Pritchett said...

    @BalugaWhate- thank you, and I assume you will be right about Stubbs, especially if he flashes those skills into Spring Training. Every expert in the biz will jump on board then.

    @Brad Johnson- I would take Stubbs over Sizemore straight up. I don’t know about pick 100, but he’s definitely worth more than Grady. So Brad I expect to see your opinions on the next four guys I will be writing about next week since we seem to be united in our “hate” to this point.

  12. Brad Johnson said...

    Feel free to interrogate me beforehand via the google group (or you can dig my email address out of that and email directly). I’d be happy to share my thoughts.

    Jeff and I have had some good chats. Aside from a few players (like Grady), we seem to have very similar opinions. It’s going to make the THT ‘Expert’ League auction draft a real challenge.

  13. Samuel Lingle said...

    This piece is timely considering we’re doing a slow draft on a message board and much to my surprise, Derek Jeter may be available with my 92nd overall selection. I used an early pick on Jose Reyes already, though, and I’m not sure how well Jeter will play in the MI spot when I could grab a Gordon Beckham or Ben Zobrist to fill the spot but it seems hard to pass up the potential for trade with that pick.

    Also, I’d say its a bit hyperbolic to say Grady’s CEILING is .250 20/20. Granted that may be a good expectation for what you can reasonably get from him if he has a decent season, but there is certainly potential for more and that’s what has people salivating. Of course, that doesn’t mean I’ll be the one drafting him…

  14. Brad Johnson said...

    In regards to Sizemore, I think what Ben means is that the highest reasonable expectation is a .250/20/20 with lackluster R/RBI totals. Think of that as his 90th percentile PECOTA. Sure he could be the rare guy who performs at his 99.9th percentile (which is what? .280/25/35 with about 80 R/RBI?) but there has to be some point where we stop.

    If you have Reyes, don’t waste a pick on Jeter. You have better 2b options much much later in the draft for MI purposes.

  15. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Samuel Lingle- A bit “hyperbolic” maybe, but the way people rationalize Grady Sizemore as even a top 150 player astounds me. Can anyone justify a return to anywhere near 05-08? He’s hurt. He’s been awful for more than a season. Only thing he has going for him is his age and playing time. My point is what you said yourself. Let somebody else draft him.

  16. Samuel Lingle said...

    On the subject of Stubbs, he just went 85th in my league’s draft, ahead of Sizemore, Granderson, Chris Young, Gardner, Hunter, and a number of other outfielders. Looks like in some leagues you won’t be able to wait that hundred picks before taking him, eh? Not that I’d expect that to happen in most leagues…

    Thanks for the responses, by the way. I’ve already read that IPO’s article, and while you may love Nishioka, I love Kipnis. :p Of course he doesn’t have guaranteed playing time like the man from Japan, so that makes it tough drafting now so far from spring training.

  17. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Samuel Lingle- Agreed with Brad. I don’t know if I would have done that especially over Granderson, but the argument can be made at least. I like kipnis alot too. Hopefully, the mindless Indians will give him his shot.

  18. Derek Ambrosino said...

    In some defense of Grady, I’d offer that

    a) to say he’s had batting average troubles his entire career is a bit of an exaggeration. He’s a career .272 hitter and his lowest single season average from glory run of ‘05-‘08 was .268.

    b) He was far from awful in 2009. Yes, he had an ugly BA, but if you extrapolate the rest of his totals out to 150 games, you get 101/25/89/18. Even with a mediocre batting average, that’s firmly top 100 production. There’s plenty of risk with Grady, but I disagree with the idea that he can’t make a profit at his ADP.

  19. Ben Pritchett said...

    @Derek Ambrosino- Grady needs your defense. I can’t justify drafting a guy who is trending downward. His power/speed/batting average are all question marks. Can you really justify a top 80 pick? I can’t.

  20. Josh Shepardson said...

    I agree with your 3B commentary, but you gotta love Jeter for 2011. Bounceback to .300+, 15/15-20/100? I think so! Look, Jeter, Alexei, Tulo, Hanley, Espinosa, Cabrera and Demond are all on my short list of guys I won’t cry if I end up with. I like them in the order of Hanley-Tulo-Jeter-Alexei-Cabrera-Espinosa-Desmond.

  21. Josh Shepardson said...

    Also keep in mind that the average fantasy player hits 14 HR, steals 10 bags, hits .270 and gets 60 R/RBI. Jeter will be above average in all categories at one of the hardest to fill positions. I will fully exploit anyone who undervalues him.

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