Pitchers and catchers have reported! For the next several weeks, we get to hear how every player in the league has reformed himself over the offseason. Some are reporting to camp after dropping 20 pounds and in the best shape of their lives. Others have given up their normal eating habits for more healthy choices. Some are fully recovered from injuries and itching to show that last year was a fluke, others had laser eye surgery to improve their vision.
So what does all of this really amount to? In my estimation, just a lot of random and senseless noise. While they may seem like bits of useful information, it’s the same stories that every team’s beat writers come out with every spring.
Of course every player is going to say he’s in the best shape of his life and ready and focused to have a monster year. Who’s really going to come into camp and say, “I was lazy, ate like garbage and didn’t work out the entire offseason?” Well, maybe Pedro Alvarez, but that’s another story altogether.
While these stories are nice and cute, you really shouldn’t let them play a major role in how you value players. Take last year, for example:
John Lannan reported to camp in the best shape of his life and primed for a tremendous year. What he actually did was make 25 starts with his highest career ERA and WHIP at 4.65/1.56, respectively.
Daisuke Matsuzaka reported to camp “in the best shape of his career,” and fans in Boston got to witness first-hand just how much of a train wreck he actually was.
Lance Berkman reported to Astros camp 20-25 pounds lighter in 2010. Maybe taking the “big” out of Big Puma was the reason for his abysmal .248/.368/.349 line.
You can just as easily find players who reported the same things during spring last year then went on to have good years. Delmon Young, David Price, Corey Hart and many many others fit into this category.
That’s just it, there doesn’t seem to be any correlation to BSOML (best shape of my life) and on-field performance. If a player has been rehabbing and is attempting to come back from an injury, than good news about his health and what shape he’s in might be of some use. Take all of these stories—and trust me you’ll hear plenty of them in the coming weeks—with a huge grain of salt.
As far as things you should listen closely to and take seriously, here are some of my bold predictions for the 2011 season. Whether or not you agree with these or would fight them to the death is irrelevant. They are just a few things I anticipate happening this season that cause me to value certain players more than the general public.
Jose Bautista will hit 40 or more home runs again in 2011. I’ve heard numerous detractors calling his season a “fluke,” but after watching a good deal of Jays games last year, I’m a believer. His pull-happy ways play perfectly in the Rodgers Centre, he has job security for the first time in his career, and we all know that Toronto loves the long ball. The average could be a concern, hovering around .250, but I’ll more than gladly take a 40-HR third basemen in the third round.
Justin Verlander and Max Scherzer will combine for at least 35 wins and 400 strikeouts. These two provide Detroit with the best 1-2 duo of any team in the league, and the scary part for opposing teams is that they’re still getting better. They’re both workhorse power arms you should target to build your staff this season.
Carlos Santana will be the best catcher in fantasy baseball at the end of the year. It looks like he’s fully recovered from his injury, and will be hitting in a premium spot in the Indians order. The sky is the limit for this kid, and I think he’ll put up a ridiculous .280 ave./80 runs/25 HR/100 RBI/10 SB. You will regret it if you pass on him.
Erik Bedard will remain healthy and toss 150-plus innings. I know that he has battled numerous injuries during his tenure in Seattle, but I think this is the year he finally avoids the DL and returns to his dominating ways.
Joel Peralta will rack up the most saves in the Tampa bullpen. Kyle Farnsworth has shown no ability to perform well when handed the ball in the ninth inning. JP Howell still isn’t completely healthy, and the organization would be better off keeping Jake McGee as a starter. This will open the door for Peralta to close games early in the season, and should he prove up to the task, he will be a nice sleeper play late in drafts.
Over the next couple of weeks I’ll focus more on draft strategy and preparation. As always, your comments and questions are more than appreciated!