Commentary

Answer Guys' Mailbag: Loving Phillips' upside

Updated: March 14, 2009, 3:20 PM ET
By Dave Hunter | ESPN.com

I need help deciding on my four keepers in a 10-team roto league. For sure I'm holding Miguel Cabrera and Carlos Beltran, but I need two more players between Francisco Liriano, Carlos Quentin and Brandon Phillips. I'm leaning towards Liriano and Quentin, but I'm not sure if Quentin can repeat last year's showing and if it's worth keeping two outfielders over a second baseman that can run. Thanks. Ryan

Dave: I can see why you'd want to keep Liriano on your roster this year. The majority of us would love to get our grubby mitts on him in just about any fantasy format this season. Liriano is one full season removed from the reconstructive elbow surgery he had in 2007, but the real key here is that he's got a wicked arsenal. There's no arguing that Liriano is one of the best arms in the league, but there's more risk in keeping him over the available hitters. So if I'm sticking true to my strategy in leagues this season, I would rather lock onto the offense in Phillips and Quentin. It's no secret that I'm a huge glutton for hitting, so letting Liriano go back into the mix doesn't sting me too badly.

Phillips is a top-5 second baseman this season, with the potential to be more. I'm not wild about his lack of discipline at the plate, but Phillips has the potential to hit 25 homers and steal 25 bases. How unusual is it for a second baseman to possess these abilities? It's rare enough at any position, let alone second base, so if I can lock onto a guy like Phillips I'm doing it. Add his power/speed combo in with the fact he plays the scarcest position in all of fantasy; it should give you a good idea as to why I'm so gaga over Phillips. He's just not someone you can readily toss back into your draft pool.

I like Quentin's skills enough this season to be in the general ballpark of last year's totals, even if his power numbers do take a slight dip. He's still going to give you close to 30 home runs, 100 RBIs and 100 runs, which isn't bad at all for a fourth keeper. Keep his bat over Liriano's arm.

Hello. I just completed my 12-team, 5x5 head-to-head draft and I'm wondering how I should try to improve my team? My hitting includes Brian McCann, Adam LaRoche, Jason Giambi, Rickie Weeks, Alexi Casilla, Hanley Ramirez, Chone Figgins, Troy Glaus, Grady Sizemore, Jacoby Ellsbury, Matt Kemp, Adam Lind, David Ortiz and my pitching includes Josh Beckett, Jon Lester, Erik Bedard, John Smoltz, Jered Weaver, Chris Young, Andy Pettitte, Wandy Rodriguez, Joakim Soria, Chad Qualls and Mark Lowe. Jay

Dave: First off, I wouldn't do anything drastic right now. I usually don't address trade needs right after a draft because I like to trust my draft skills and give my team a chance out of the gate. I usually wait until a month or so into the season, unless I get an offer I just can't refuse. That doesn't mean I don't ever trade before the season starts, I just prefer not to.

However, looking at your team for the future, your weak areas are first base and second base. Plus, I'm not crazy about your starting pitching in general. There's too much risk tied into pitchers bouncing back from poor seasons and staying injury free. Beckett, Lester and Bedard are nice arms, but I'm not crazy about the risk you've got tied up into Rodriguez, Smoltz and Pettitte.

If I was going to target one area first, however, it would be second base. I don't want you carrying a .230 hitter as your starting second baseman, especially when you look at the issues you'll have at batting average rostering Giambi, LaRoche and Glaus. Weeks still hasn't reached 500 at-bats in a season over his career, so that's another concern. Yes, there's always a chance he breaks out, but I'd much rather see you upgrade his slot by moving Ortiz down the line.

This is my first time ever playing fantasy baseball. The team I'm working with is an ESPN standard roto league, which was auto picked. Somehow I ended up with outstanding outfielders, but weak infielders and relatively weak pitching too. I'm questioning how aggressive I need to be in trying to add infielders, particularly when my experience with some public fantasy leagues is that it can be difficult to work out a trade. Here's what I have: Brian McCann, Billy Butler, Dan Uggla, Jorge Cantu, Elvis Andrus, Placido Polanco, Ryan Braun, Carlos Lee, Carlos Beltran, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, Jacoby Ellsbury, Quentin, Jermaine Dye, Jay Bruce, Matt Wieters, Jon Lester, Ted Lilly, Matt Garza, Trevor Hoffman, Aaron Harang, Erik Bedard, Hiroki Kuroda, Brandon Lyon and Fausto Carmona. And, I have no one in my 1B/3B slot right now.

I don't have to keep Wieters, but my hope was to let him appreciate in value and then trade either him or McCann down the road. However, I do feel like I need to get someone into that 1B/3B slot. I offered Jermaine Dye for Carlos Pena, but didn't even get a response. So I just offered Jay Bruce for Aubrey Huff. Basically, I'm looking for an owner who has a low-rated outfielder or two and lacks position depth. Does this make sense, or should I just wait and see how things develop? Also, what about my pitching? Do I need to think about moving a bat for a pitcher? Thanks for any suggestions! Benjamin

Dave: The auto draft really did a number on your squad, creating a significant imbalance. The worst part, though, was that you were left without a player to fill your 1B/3B slot. It's a difficult situation, but one that can be rectified. You can't afford to start the season without filling the corner slot, so I'd continue to work on trade ideas. Dye for Pena would be good, same with Bruce for Huff, so you're on the right track there. Other than getting your 1B/3B slot filled, you don't have such a pressing need that you need to make something happen now. It's likely that other teams in your league will see your surplus of great outfielders anyway and want to snatch one away from you.

As far as your claim to your infielders being weak, you're going to be all right with Uggla at second base, so I wouldn't worry so much there. Uggla's not top-5 material by any means, but he is one of the better second basemen in the league. Cantu is serviceable and so is Butler, but along with shortstop, those are the areas that you're likely going to need to improve down the line. Moving Upton or Quentin to get an upgrade at 1B or 3B would be a good idea when the time is right. Target players like Justin Morneau, Prince Fielder, Ryan Howard, Aramis Ramirez, and Evan Longoria. Your starting pitching needs work, too, but it's the less pressing issue. Carmona, Harang and Bedard are expected to bounce back this season.

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