THT fantasy mailbag

Welcome to the THT fantasy mailbag. If you’d like your question to be answered in the next mailbag, please send it to
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A couple of notes: (1) It is helpful for our authors to know your league setup (number of teams, roster spots, any other important specifics), so if you'd like to raise the chances of getting your question answered and receiving a good answer at that, please include that information in your e-mail. (2) Though we'll consider any question, we prefer general questions that might be useful to our other readers. Those questions are also more likely to get answered, though again, we encourage any question you would like to ask.

And now, on to the mailbag!

Do you think CC Sabathia can hold up another season, the way he has been pitched recently?

Cory

Hi Cory,

As you probably know, CC Sabathia is one of the top free agents this offseason, and much has been discussed regarding what type of contract he'll receive. Among that speculation is not only the amount of money involved, but the duration of the contract. From what I have read and heard thus far, much of the talk hasn't been in regards to his workload, which, I am assuming you are asking about.

Sabathia has shown that he is a very durable pitcher, having pitched at least 180 innings each year and averaging 32 starts per year. He doesn't have much of an injury history either, or at least one worth worrying about. In 2005, he missed a couple weeks with a strained oblique and in 2006, he missed nearly all of April with the same injury. And I believe that's it. In addition to all of this, he is still only 28 years old.

The biggest issue that seems to arise is his weight. Sabathia is a very, very large individual. He's listed as 290 lbs on his own site, and one of the bigger questions seems to be how he'll look a few years from now. Assuming his weight increases as his age does, how will this growth affect his performance? That seems to be the biggest concern, Cory, but for next year, I'd continue to rank him as one of the best pitchers around. It's the subsequent years that I worry about.

- Marco Fujimoto

Can you name some specific players that can break out in 2009? More specifically, what do you think about Chris Davis? How about James Loney? Clayton Kershaw? Brandon Morrow?

Thank you,
Shimi

For a closer look at James Loney, I would refer you to this article.

The other three you mention are all high risk, high reward players.

Davis has monster power potential, but he still has problems making contact, causing him to be a batting average risk. If you think you can risk the batting average by making it up somewhere else, Davis will be a great source of power and you should be able to put him at 3B as well. Davis may have a Ryan Howard-type season in him, but he’ll need to work on his plate discipline a little more.

Kershaw of course is one of the top young pitchers in the game. He’s shown the makings of a good skill set with a good groundball rate and an excellent strikeout rate. However, he’s got a lot of work to do with his control and command. I’d say Kershaw would be a decent fantasy option for next year depending on your league type, and it’ll likely be another year or two before a big breakout. He’s definitely one to stash away if you’re in a keeper league.

Morrow has some downright nasty stuff and has shown a similar skill set to Kershaw, though he’s more of a flyball pitcher. Like Kershaw, he has shown a very good strikeout rate with a mediocre walk rate. Also, Morrow is transitioning into his first full year as a starter in professional baseball, so there will be questions with his durability. However, it’s tough to find pitchers with arms like Morrow. I would argue that Morrow has a greater chance of breaking out in 2009 than Kershaw, while I would rather take Kershaw in a keeper league.

Some other guys I would consider as breakout candidates for 2009 include Jason Kubel, Clay Buchholz, Taylor Buchholz, and Alex Gordon.

- Victor Wang

I'm in a fourteen team keeper league in which each team is allowed to keep up to three of its current players. It is also an auction league and to keep a player you must pay him what he was bought for the previous season. All free agent pickups cost the minimum, $200. Each team has a $15,000 payroll that needs to be distributed to 20 players. The rosters are as follows: C, 1b, 2b, 3b, SS, LF, CF, RF , OF, UTIL, SP, SP, SP, RP, RP, P, P, P, and two bench spots.

The stat categories are as follows. Offense: doubles, home runs, total bases, RBI, stolen bases, strikeouts, BA, OBP. Pitching: innings pitched, wins, complete games, saves, strikeouts, ERA, WHIP, K/BB. (I don't care much for the categories, but the league is fun and competitive.)

My year ending roster was (with price tag in parenthesis): Jeff Clement (200), Conor Jackson (200), Chase Utley (3030), Aramis Ramirez (1470), Stephen Drew (250), Joey Votto (200), Rick Ankiel (260), Chris B. Young (1500), Nick Markakis (1000), Edwin Encarnacion (300), Kosuke Fukudome (630), Orlando Hudson (200), Ryan Braun (200), Aaron Cook (200), Aaron Harang (1200), Adam Wainwright (460), Chad Billingsley (840), Johan Santana (3000), Jon Garland (230), Josh Johnson (200), Rafael Perez (200).

There is one player on that list I can't keep, Ryan Braun, who I kept from last year's roster. After looking at price, position and skill level, I narrowed down my list to seven players: Wainwright (460), Ramirez (1470), Billingsley (840), Votto (200), Markakis (1000), Ankiel (260) and Drew (250). From that list I chose Votto, Drew and Markakis. I am fairly confident with my picks but would love to hear/read what you would do if you were in my situation.

Thanks, Isaac.

Isaac,

It is tough for me to answer your question confidently, even with all of the information you gave me, which is much appreciated. It would be easier to answer if I knew such things as the salaries of some other players, other players likely to become available, etc., but I'll still give you my best input. (And by the way, you gave the right amount of background info, any more than you gave would get overwhelming.)

The one obvious choice to keep is Markakis, who, at $1000 seems to be an absolute steal. With one outfielder already secured, I wonder if Votto should also be kept. I'm not even sure he will keep his outfield eligibility next season, which makes him less valuable as a first baseman only. Both Wainwright and Billingsley are steals, and I would definitely keep at least one of them, probably Billingsley even though he is a bit more expensive. I project a great 2009 for him.

Drew is certainly cheap at $250, but I don't believe he is worth keeping. He had a nice season with a .290 average and 20 home runs, but he's precariously close to becoming just average. The home runs seem legit to me, but do not be surprised if his average falls into the .270-.280 range, further hampering his value. Also, the offensive stat categories do not curtail to his game. Drew is more of a slugging shortstop and your league values OBP over slugging, and he's a leadoff hitter so having RBI and not Runs disagrees with the run totals he will put up.

If you are willing to go pitching heavy, then you could also secure Wainwright along with Billingsley, but if you want to keep at least two batters you could go with Votto or Encarnacion. Wainwright will most likely give you more value than either of those two players, though.

- Paul Singman

Our CBS head-to-head keeper league uses the entire site's Average Draft Position for each player to determine where I keeper will be kept in the draft. We take this snapshot at the All-Star break each season. So, for instance, the Average Draft Position as of 7.15.08 for Josh Hamilton was 136, which means I will get to keep (draft) him in the 14th round in 2009, which is tremendous value.

With this in mind, can you give me guidance on who you recommend I keep from the following list of players (the more detailed analysis the better)? We can keep up to 6 and I have already made the decision to keep Tulowitski (fifth round, under contract), Hamilton (14th), and Longoria (22nd). Who would you take with your remaining three slots from the following:

Morneau (4th Round)
Liriano (11th)
Harden (15th)
S. Drew (19th)
Kemp (19th)
E. Santana (20th)
McLouth (25th)
Alexei Ramirez (25th)
Scherzer (25th)

Trey

It definitely depends on the number of people in the draft and where you're picking, especially for the Morneau decision.

I'm probably most excited about Harden in the 15th slot. You know the upside—you saw most of it this year. The downside is simply losing the 15th-round draft pick for some or all of the year. I'm fine with that level of risk for a guy with his strikeout rate, on a team that should pile up wins again in 2009.

I like Matt Kemp a lot. Great numbers and he's just so young that his power and patience should continue to improve. He's also young enough that he shouldn't lose too much speed. Only concern here is playing time; Torre can be unpredictable in his allegiance to veterans.

Lastly, I'd definitely pick Scherzer. Again, young guy who has yet to peak—in fact, for the 25th round, he might be the guy I'm most excited about. Tremendous strikeout numbers, and pretty reasonable walk numbers for his first partial season in the bigs. Best case, I'd hope for 9-10 K/9 and 3 BB/9, which is pretty ace-like, if you ask me. Mean expectation, probably 9 K/9 and 4 BB/9.

For the non-choices, I'd say Morneau depends on what number pick it is. If you're in an eight-man league and have an early round four pick, I'd pass. If you're late in the round in a 12-man league, I might consider picking him up. Liriano, I feel like his best-case scenario is a James Shields-type season. Not quite an elite strikeout guy, but with good control and a sub-4.00 ERA. That kind of production is fine in the 11th round, but I think that's the best case. We just don't know if he's got the guts (or the elbow) to keep throwing the slider like he did before he got hurt. And without that, he's nothing amazing.

- Michael Lerra

I was wondering where you would look to draft Stephen Drew and Curtis Granderson in a 12-team, mixed league with categories: R, 1B, 2B, 3B, RBI, HR, OBP, BB, SLG, NSB, K. If it's relevant, our hitting positions are: C, 1B, 2B, 3B, SS, CI, MI, LF, CF, RF, OF, UTIL, UTIL.

Julian

Julian,

Stephen Drew is not someone I am particularly high on going into 2009 right now. He will probably go pretty early in drafts, near rounds 6-7-8, and based on the prediction I gave Drew in Isaac's question above—.280 average, 20-25 home runs—I think he's more of an eighth or ninth round value. So that is where I'd look to pick him, but I would not expect him to fall that far. Your stat categories also favor a more patient hitter's game, and Drew is one of those free-swinging "sluggers", so his value is further hampered in your league.

Granderson is a player I am expecting to have somewhat of a bounceback year in '09. A .290, 20 HR, 20 SB season would not surprise me and with his great run totals, spending a fourth round pick on him seems justifiable. In fact, with triples as a category in your league, I would consider pulling the trigger on him in the third or late second round.

- Paul Singman

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