<
>

You Heard Me: Bold predictions from the TMR

3/25/2008

You should look both ways before you cross the street. If you freeze water, it will turn into ice. Johan Santana is a really good pitcher.

Oh, sorry. You mean you didn't need me to tell you that? You actually have functioning brain cells? This is not your first time at the Fantasy Rodeo?

The brilliance of baseball is that, more often than not, players do what they are supposed to. Carlos Lee has five straight seasons of 30-plus home runs. Miguel Cabrera has at least 112 RBIs in each of the past four seasons. Livan Hernandez has given up at least 245 hits each of the past three years.

Fantasy baseball is not won in the first rounds of your draft, it is not won with the big name players and it's not won with Livan Hernandez. Seriously, he really sucks in fantasy.

It is won with the Ryan Brauns and Carlos Penas. The Jeremy Accardo and Manny Corpas-types that emerge from seemingly nowhere. The second halves of Dustin McGowan and Adam Wainwright. It is won by getting production out of unexpected and/or cheap-to-acquire players.

Erik Bedard will compete for the Cy Young award. That statement doesn't help you this year, but when I said it in February of last year, it sure did. When I told you Daisuke Matsuzaka was due for a letdown in the second half and I ranked him more than 50 spots lower at the All-Star break than any of my colleagues, I was mocked. But those who believed me avoided his second-half ERA of 5.19. And if you listened last preseason when I told you about the big contract-year stats Andruw Jones was going to put up, err, sorry about that. My bad.

No guts, no glory. You only live once. Go down swinging. Pick your cliché, it all comes to the same place. Are you a closer or a set-up guy? When the bases are loaded, there's two outs and David Ortiz is at the plate, do you wish you had the ball or do you wish you were on the bench, secretly happy that your job was done?

It all depends on the way you play. But for me, I say screw it, I'm going for it. I've fallen flat on my face many times, and will do so again in the future, but generally speaking, it's served me very well. Both in fantasy sports and in life.

I play to win. And winning isn't being happy with third, it's being angry about it. If I don't win, I don't care if I finish fourth or dead last. As the saying goes, no one remembers second place.

So to win, you're gonna have to draft well, make smart pickups and trades and get lucky with your health. You're also going to have to take a few leaps of faith.

This doesn't mean you make stupid moves. Quite the contrary. I make many suggestions on strategy in my "Draft Day Manifesto" and my "10 Rules for Auctions," including the fact that I generally don't like rookies. But when you are in the middle and late rounds, you need to go upside.

And who has that upside? Well, I'm about to tell you. Because everyone can talk theory and what you should do in a general sense, but I'm putting some names and numbers under my name. We call it "You Heard Me." As in, I say Jeff Francoeur hits more than 35 home runs this year. You heard me. The guy who hit 19 last year will hit more than 35. That's not a wild leap of faith, incidentally. I genuinely believe that. Francoeur added 20 pounds in the off-season, had almost double the amount of, er, doubles he had from '06 to '07 and has played 162 games each of the past two years. So yeah, based on all of that, I think he's gonna come close to doubling his home run total from last season.

It doesn't mean you grab Francoeur in the fourth round, but when you're looking at guys in the ninth, you grab him, since he's been going in the 11th, according to ESPN.com average draft results.

If you lead a fantasy sports life of quiet desperation, this is not the article for you (and frankly, I'm not the analyst for you). If you move three inches to your left you'll be directly in the middle of the road. But I've got some fantasy cojones. Read my list and decide if you do, as well.

You Heard Me

George Sherrill saves 30 games this year.
Adam Jones hitting .240 and 20 home runs? I'll take the under.
Mike Lowell hits .270 and only 15 home runs.
Manny Ramirez hits fewer than 30.
Josh Beckett makes fewer than 15 starts.
• Daisuke Matsuzaka's ERA this year: 4.50.
Johnny Damon steals 35 bases.
Joba Chamberlain is still in the bullpen at the All-Star break.
• Evan Longoria hits fewer than 16 home runs. And under .265.
James Shields has a better year than Scott Kazmir.
Nick Swisher hits 35 home runs and gets more than 120 RBIs.
Ryan Garko hits .300 and 30 home runs.
Josh Barfield gets back into the starting lineup and has double-digit steals and home runs.
Joe Borowski keeps his closer gig all season and saves 40-plus games again.
• Superman II is a better movie than Superman. Kneel before Zod.
• Miguel Cabrera is top-three in all three Triple Crown categories.
Justin Verlander finishes the year as the second best fantasy pitcher in the American League.
• The following outfielders all go 30/30 this year: Nick Markakis, Corey Hart, Hunter Pence.
Curtis Granderson does not.
• In fact, he steals under 20 bases this year.
• And I wrote that before news of his broken finger, err… broke.
Billy Butler hits .300 with 25 home runs.
• If "Me Wise Magic" had been released by Van Halen in their heyday, it would be one of their top three sellers. I love that song.
John Bale wins 10 games.
Mike Lamb hits 20 home runs.
Francisco Liriano strikes out fewer than 175 batters and I'll take the under on 25 starts.
Torii Hunter goes 30/30.
Chris Denorfia goes 20 and 10. You heard me.
Bobby Crosby hits 25 home runs.
Rich Harden stays healthy all year.
Huston Street does not.
• I will date at least one sane woman in 2008.
Richie Sexson bounces back (sort of) to hit .260 and 25 home runs.
Josh Hamilton hits 30 home runs.
• So does Hank Blalock.
Jarrod Saltalamacchia doesn't even get 200 at bats.
• Erik Bedard ends the season as the No. 1 overall fantasy pitcher. (I rank Johan ahead for now due to less risk, but believe Bedard ends the season at No. 1).
• Kazuo Fukumori ends up the season with double-digit saves.
Yunel Escobar goes 15/15.
• Anne Hathaway is hotter than Megan Fox. You heard me.
• The Marlins have five players get at least 25 home runs: Hanley Ramirez, Dan Uggla, Josh Willingham, Mike Jacobs and Jeremy Hermida.
Orlando Hernandez has a better fantasy season than Pedro Martinez.
Carlos Ruiz hits more than 15 home runs.
Pedro Feliz hits 30 home runs.
Shawn Hill pitches more than 150 innings, has a sub-3.30 ERA and wins double-digit games.
Wily Mo Pena hits 30 home runs. Yes, even with the injury. You heard me.

Ryan Theriot steals 35 bases and hits over .300.
Carlos Marmol ends the year with more saves than current closer Kerry Wood.
• Kosuke Fukudome gets less than 15 home runs and less than 15 stolen bases.
• Johnny Cueto is the fantasy rookie pitcher of the year.
Norris Hopper steals more than 30 bases.
Jeff Keppinger has double-digit steals and home runs and hits better than .300.
• Jay Bruce ends the year with less than 200 major league at-bats.
Miguel Tejada hits 30 home runs and has a resurgence in Houston.
• Phil Jackson should win the NBA coach of the year. But won't.
Jose Valverde is not the Astros closer at the end of the season.
Rickie Weeks goes 25/25 and doesn't kill your average.
Xavier Nady hits 30 home runs.
Rick Ankiel hits 40. You heard me.
Troy Glaus ends the season with more home runs and RBIs than Albert Pujols.
Randy Johnson strikes out 175 guys and wins at least 12 games, all with a sub-3.60 ERA.
Dan Haren finishes the year with an ERA worse than 4.00.
Yorvit Torrealba hits 15 home runs.
Chad Billingsley finishes the year with an ERA over 4.00 and is considered one of the fantasy busts of the season.
• Hiroki Kuroda finishes the year with an ERA over 4.50.
Mark Prior wins double digit games this year and strikes out more than 150.
Rajai Davis steals 40 bases.
• At least 75 percent of these statements turn out to be true at the end of the season.

Matthew Berry -- The Talented Mr. Roto -- is ESPN's senior director of fantasy. He was just as surprised as you to find out it's a real job. He is a multiple award-winner from the Fantasy Sports Writers Association, including a Writer of the Year award. He has been playing fantasy sports for more than 20 years, writing about it professionally for more than 10. He currently appears on or in ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNEWS, ESPN the Magazine, ESPN.com, ESPN Mobile TV and, as soon as he learns to say "ground ball/fly-ball ratio" in Spanish, ESPN Deportes.

Cyberstalk the TMR | Be his Cyberfriend