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Fantasy World: Diaper Dandies

2/26/2009
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What do newborns and grandparents both have in common? They both wear diapers.

It's an old joke, but as with any gut-buster, there's a profound meaning hidden in there.

Life is cyclical. You end in the same fragile state you began. (Which is really the only point of The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. There, I just saved you three hours and ten bucks.)

Baseball is the same way. There are few youngsters who begin dominating right out of the gates (Tim Lincecum being an exception) and there's rarely a veteran who can consistently put up quality performances, year-in and year-out, deep into their career. You see, youngsters and old fogies live on the outer part of the spectrum, making any attempt to project their performance a bit dicey. So let's look at a few folks from the rare under-23-or-over-39 sect a bit closer:

The Juveniles

David Price, 23, Rays
Hey look, an overly-hyped pitching prospect that actually lived up to his billing! But while Price blew the doors off the joint right away—14 innings of 1.93 ERA performance at the end of the regular season, and another 5.2 innings of 1.59 ERA under the magnifying glass of playoff ball—there's still a lot for the kid to accomplish before you can call him "elite". Like, start a 2nd major league game. Trading Edwin Jackson to the Tigers will give him that shot, but don't be shocked if the rook has his ups-and-downs throughout the year. It'll even up for those in Roto leagues, but folks playing in head-to-head will have their share of headaches.

Homer Bailey, 23, Reds
The top prospect for the Reds before the 2007 season, Bailey was one of those afore-mentioned "overly-hyped pitching prospects," except he has not lived up to the hype. What we don't know is if we should put a "yet" or "ever" in the previous sentence. Heading into spring training, he's in competition with Micah Owings and Nick Masset for the final spot in the Reds rotation. If he gets it, he's worth a look to see if he can recapture his magic from Double-A ball back in 2006: 7-1, 1.59 ERA, 77 Ks in 68 innings. If he doesn't, this will be the last you'll hear of him in preseason fantasy reports.

Aaron Poreda, 22, White Sox
The first draft pick after the White Sox instituted their new "Hey, let's start drafting players with actual upside!" policy in 2007, Poreda is currently in competition with Clayton Richard and Jeff Marquez for the final spot in the South Side rotation. Seeing as there's really two spots up for grabs—don't tell me Bartolo Colon has locked down anything beyond a table reservation for tonight—his 161 innings of 3.13 ERA spread out across Single-A and Double-A last year is promising.

Jose Ceda, 22, Marlins
The bait that brought Kevin Gregg over to the Cubs this offseason, Ceda will start the season in the minors. But depending on how successful the Marlins' youth movement is this year, and how many times current closer Matt Lindstrom gets rocked, there's a real shot that Ceda will be getting 9th inning duties by year's end.

The Geriatric

Randy Johnson, 45, Giants
The only thing that can be (probably) guaranteed is that Johnson will reach 300 wins this year. Unfortunately, that only means he can be counted on for only five Ws. If he puts up a year like last—173 strikeouts in 184 innings with a 3.91 ERA—then the Giants are going to win the division running away. Problem is, 45-year-olds (or 44-year-olds, for that matter) don't put up numbers like that. Like Hamlet, or more recently James T. Kirk, we're in undiscovered country here. If you want an excuse to be an optimist, having Big Unit himself say he's "excited about this year", because his being healthy is as good as it gets.

Tom Glavine, 43, Braves
Not happy with injury forcing him into retirement, the Braves brought the future Hall of Famer back for a 1-year, $1 million deal with a bunch of incentives. On the off-chance he stays healthy, expect something along the lines of his last year with the Mets: 200 innings, 90 strikeouts or so, and an ERA around 4.50. But seeing as he's 43, there's a good chance he'll finish the year with only that initial million in his pocket.

John Smoltz, 42, Red Sox
Coming off shoulder surgery, Smoltz isn't expected to make his Fenway debut until late June. Whether he's going to be making it in the 1st inning or during mop-up duty is still up in the air; no matter the team's plan, there's just no way to predict how much stress a 42-year-old's shoulder can take without seeing him throw. And that, obviously, will define his worth in fantasy leagues. Personally, I'd pick him as a late-round stab in the dark and hope for five wins, with the stipulation that he's the first gone if you need a roster spot. There's a good chance both Glavine and Smoltz will have wished they followed their old teammate Greg Maddux into the sunset.

Tim Wakefield, 42, Red Sox
The other 42-year-old in the Boston rotation, Wakefield is as predictable as you can get in the Fantasy World. Expect about 180 innings with about 110 strikeouts, an ERA in the mid-4.00s and double-digit victories.

Troy Percival, 39, Rays
While Joe Maddon still considers Percival the team's closer, that might not mean anything come May. With a BABIP of .172 last year, Percival's due for a collapse. Throw a $1 at him if need be, but don't expect to get full value even then.

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Player On My Team of the Week
: Carlos Marmol, on my keeper shortlist after he announced the sweetest nine-word phrase in the Fantasy World language: "I will not pitch in the World Baseball Classic".

How to Heckle One of My Players of the Week: "Hey Pink Eye Lincecum, didn't one of your parents teach you how to wash your hands correctly?" (More with Lincecum's dad, of a cool nature: go here.)

Best Spring Training Article of the Week: This hilarious template from The 35th Street Review for how to write your own spring training report. It works for any team if you swap out the references to the White Sox with those for your favorite team.

Buy High: The quality of life, again, now that Arrested Development: The Movie has been okayed by Michael Cera, the last holdout of the cast to give the okay to use his likeness in a motion picture. About time. To celebrate, here's a chicken dance remix.

Sell Low: The ability of horror movies to affect us, after the website Urlesque released something much more horrific to the homes of everyone with an Internet connection: this list of the 20 weirdest album covers of all time.