Guys I Love, Guys I Hate
It's a very simple question and yet, I can't get an answer to it.
What is wrong with people?
Quick backstory: I am a diehard Lakers fan. Have been a season-ticket holder for 15 years, even keeping them when I moved from Los Angeles to Connecticut in 2007. Too valuable to give up, I mostly just alternately give them away to friends or sell them. OK, backstory over. Time for, er, front story. Or now story. Which is it?
While you ponder, I'll tell you about this past Valentine's Day, when, surprisingly, I had an idea. "Who wants my Lakers tickets tonight?" I tweeted to my followers. "In honor of Valentine's Day, because I love you, 24th person (for Kobe!) to tweet 'Go Lakers' at me gets 2 tix."
Responses come in fast, I find the 24th person to do it, I tweet him and ask for his email address. I also re-tweet his winning entry, congratulating him. So this guy and I go back and forth, I make sure he gets the electronic tickets, which he does. He's good to go, he's psyched. And I feel pretty good. Lakers games are sometimes a tough ticket, not everyone gets to enjoy them, it felt good to give them away to a Lakers fan who followed me. "I need to do this more often," I say to the Current Mrs. Roto. I shut off Twitter and we head out to a romantic dinner. Romantic as evidenced by the fact that I shut off Twitter.
The next morning, I find out that five minutes after I give this guy the tickets, he posted this tweet: "#Lakers tickets for sale tonight! Message me or go to Ebay" (and he includes the link).
What? Really?!? Seriously, dude?
What is wrong with people? I specifically waited until three hours before tipoff for this exact reason. The odds of selling tickets online to a Tuesday night regular-season game 2 ½ hours (at the point he got the tickets) before tip aren't great. He messages me the next day. He tells me "turns out he couldn't make it," (he doesn't think I know about his trying to sell them. Or that I now know he lives in Florida) and says that he ultimately donated them to charity "so it's all good."
No, jerk, it isn't. I've donated plenty to charity. And if I wanted to do it this time, I would have. Well in advance, so the charity could auction it off, get some real donations, etc. But I wanted these tickets to go to a Lakers fan. A nice surprise for someone who follows me. What is a charity going to do with two tickets one hour before tipoff (which is when he pulled them off eBay)? Do you have any idea how hard it is to get to a game in L.A. with all the traffic? Of course you don't. You live in Florida!.
When he finds out I know about eBay and the selling attempts, he backpedals even more, more excuses before eventually apologizing but I don't want to hear it. I'm disgusted by this guy and the whole thing has been ruined for me. That's what I get for trying to be nice. I ask you, gentle reader.
What the hell is wrong with people?
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I have a personal Facebook page where I interact with people all the time. Now, to get on that page, you have to actively seek me out, click "subscribe" or whatever, sometimes it's like a two- or three-click process, right? So I assume everyone there is someone who really wants to be there. And remember, it's not a fan page, OK? It's my personal page. I do keep some things private, but I only have one Facebook page and that's it. So my longtime good friend Melissa Masse, who is a great dress designer, posted on her Facebook about her upcoming spring line at Neiman Marcus (a big deal for her). I shared this link on my page, wishing her luck. Some people went nuts, yelling about spam and how they came to me for fantasy, not dresses, and then of course they wrap all that in personal insults as well. It's my own page, I'm supporting someone I'm close to and no one forced you to "friend me." Who is against helping a friend?
What is wrong with people?
Get an email from a total stranger. He's an author, his first book is coming out, says he's a big fan of mine, would I mind reading an advance copy and maybe giving a blurb? I have five kids, so I don't get a lot of non-sports reading time these days, but you know what? Many, many people helped me when I was starting out, I always like to encourage young writers when I can, so I think "sure." I write him back and say you bet, send it along, I'll be happy to do that. And congrats on getting your first book published!
He writes back. "Thanks. Hey, could you ask Bill Simmons and Chuck Klosterman to read my book and give a blurb? They're actually my favorite writers."
What is wrong with people?
Came across a story the other day. A 24-year-old unemployed Michigan woman won a million-dollar lottery. Awesome, right? Good for her. Except she decided to remain on unemployment. That's right. She still gets $200 a month from the state, in addition to all the money she has in the bank from the lottery. When confronted about it by a local news team, Clayton said "I feel that it's OK because I mean, I have no income and I have bills to pay," she said. "I have two houses."
What. The Hell. Is wrong with people?
Every day I'm baffled by minute stuff like this. Life isn't that tough. As the great Bill S. Preston, Esq., and his fellow Wyld Stallyon Ted "Theodore" Logan once advised us, not so long ago "Be excellent to each other. And party on."
I get it, life's not always easy. There are ups and downs. Good days and bad days. But how hard is it to follow one simple guideline: Don't be a jerk. Fairly straightforward, right? But that's a pipe dream. Especially because "jerk" is in the eye of the beholder. I think I read that on a Hallmark card.
The Twitter guy probably thought "Hey, they're my tickets. I won fair and square, Berry just gave them away with no stipulations, I can do with them what I want, including selling them."
Maybe the jerks on Facebook thought they were being funny. Or really hate women's fashion. Or only want fantasy information from me. Boy, are they in for a rude awakening. We're roughly 1,200 words into this thing, how's that working out for you?
Maybe the aspiring author is just super-enthusiastic, is excited that I seem so nice, so what's the harm in asking if I do one more favor? I mean, we must all hang out in the same office here at ESPN, right?
And the lottery winner, she probably… yeah, I got nothing. Sometimes a jerk is just a jerk.
The point is, San Dimas High School football rules! The other point is that people approach everything differently. What seems jerky to me might be normal to you, and vice versa. Which brings us, meandering slowly, to the 2012 baseball edition of "Love/Hate."
A player you think is a fourth-rounder I may feel is a second-rounder. A guy you're drafting in the 10th is a reach for me, as I'm not touching him until the 14th. It is these differences, you see, that make up Love and Hate. And this is good. Life's already full enough of jerks; the last thing you need is someone who thinks exactly like you do about every player, snaking them from you in the draft.
So there I was, looking at the live draft results for our standard 10-team mixed 5x5 leagues. And as you might imagine, I disagreed with where some folks are taking some players. Now remember, any player can be a sleeper or a bust depending on what it costs to acquire that player. I don't love the term, but it's what everyone uses, so we're stuck with it. A sleeper or a bust is anyone you think will exceed or fall short of returning what it cost to acquire them. Matt Kemp, Jacoby Ellsbury and Curtis Granderson were "sleepers" last year for everyone who targeted them. Nobody had to ask "Who?" when they drafted them, so you might not think of them as "sleepers" But all three massively outperformed their draft-day cost and won a lot of leagues for a lot of folks.
Hard to say, really, that Bobby Abreu was a "bust" last year, right? I mean, his average draft position was the 15th round (pick 143). Except he finished the year at No. 212 on the Player Rater. Even though he didn't cost much to acquire, he still failed to live up to even that.
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It is with this premise in mind we present this year's Love/Hate, a more focused edition than prior seasons. It's still really long, don't worry. As if you didn't already figure that out by the fifth paragraph. This season, I thought I would go round by round and pick one or two players who are either going a little too late (the "loves") or are going a little too early (the "hates") for my taste. Hopefully, the round designations will stop questions like "You hate Robinson Cano and love Danny Espinosa, which one should I draft?" But I'm not holding my breath. (What is wrong with some people?) Use your brain. It's by round. I used the ADP from the first week or so of live drafts on ESPN.com, so it may change a bit by the beginning of the season.
So here's where my opinion differs from the crowd. But on the ticket guy, we're all on the same page there, right? OK, good.
Guys I love
Adrian Gonzalez, 1B, Red Sox (Going in the 2nd round, I'd take him in the 1st): A super- obvious name, of course, but I put him in because I have him ranked ahead of Joey Votto and most rankings I've seen has them reversed. Here's why I disagree: First, not only is it possible that Gonzalez outplays Votto; it wouldn't be the first time. Gonzalez was the second-best first baseman on our Player Rater last year. Votto was fourth. But here's something you might not know. Adrian did an interview for the Fantasy Focus podcast this offseason with me and Stephania Bell, and he said something fascinating: He's actually been injured for two years now. He's one of the toughest guys in baseball (just seven total games missed over the last three seasons) but now, heading into this year, he feels fully healthy. He told Stephania and me about how he had adjusted his swing because of his shoulder, and now that he feels he can extend fully, he spent his winter watching old tape to recapture his old swing because he thinks he'll be better now that he can fully swing through the ball and… what?!!?? Think about what he did last year, when, finally freed from Petco, he had the best statistical season of his career in basically every category but home runs. It was a down year for many Red Sox, including Carl Crawford and Kevin Youkilis, so now, in his second year in the American League, with healthier players around him, he can fully extend his swing? Seriously, dude, Votto who? I'm all in. Would not shock me if he ended up the No. 1 first baseman this year. All. In.
Carlos Gonzalez, OF, Rockies (2nd round, take in the first): CarGo hit .295 with 26 homers, 92 runs, 92 RBIs and 20 steals last season and he was hurt. And he's just 26. Outfield is more shallow than you think. Meanwhile, I'm just as shallow as you think. Ugh, what are you wearing?
Adrian Beltre, 3B, Rangers (3rd round, take in the 2nd): I have him above David Wright and just a few spots behind Evan Longoria in my rankings. I might even be too low on him; I think our overall ESPN rankings are. Look at what he's done since leaving Seattle: 28 homers and 102 RBIs with Boston and then 32 homers and 105 RBIs last season, and he missed nearly 40 games. Generally a healthy player, great ballpark, he's 30 and 100 with a good average in the bank and there's upside for a lot more if he stays healthy. He isn't nearly as exciting a name as Wright or Longoria, but he's a much safer play than either.
Michael Bourn, OF, Braves (4th round, take in the 3rd): Bourn needs a new PR guy. We need a whole new campaign. We'll do the talk shows, the viral video with some YouTube star, the fake relationship with an up-and-coming actress (I'm thinking Rooney Mara), all to re-brand him as Michael Bourn: more than just steals!
The question isn't why am I so high on him, the question is why isn't anyone else? When my ranks came out, I got a lot of notes on Facebook and Twitter, some of them even spelled correctly, wondering why I had Bourn at 26 and eighth overall among outfielders. And I'm like, why wouldn't I? I'm worried I'm a little too low on him. Three straight seasons of 50-plus steals, he's a .283 hitter over the past three and has averaged 92 runs a season. He's also stolen 50 total bags more than the next guy (Carl Crawford) over the past three combined, so it's not just that he gets a lot of steals, he gets them significantly more consistently and in much greater numbers than anyone else. It's a huge advantage. I mean, if you draft Bourn and then get an average of seven steals from the rest of the players on your team, you win stolen bases. He's essentially 10 roto points, just with steals. Now add all those runs scored and 600-plus at-bats of hitting better than .280, and you've got yourself a roto stud. Finally, consider these names: Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, Justin Upton, Robinson Cano, Joey Votto, Carlos Gonzalez. According to our Player Rater, which judges every player on how valuable they are in standard rotisserie categories as compared to every other player, Michael Bourn was better than all of those guys last year. He's a stud and I don't want to have to plant a rumor of the existence of a clandestine tape featuring him and a Hollywood starlet to convince you of that fact.
Josh Hamilton, OF, Rangers (4th round, take in the 3rd): Not worried about off-the-field issues, just like I wasn't worried about them with Miguel Cabrera last season. I'm also not worried about the injury history. In a10-team mixed league, there are plenty of viable options on the waiver wire while you stash Hamilton on the IR. Hamilton for 447 at-bats (his three-year average) plus a replacement-level outfielder for 150 at-bats will easily produce top-30 stats.
Zack Greinke, P, Brewers ( 5th round, take in the 4th): Sabermetric darling Greinke not only allows you to feel statistically smug with a 2011 xFIP of 2.56 and a superior K/9 of 10.54, but it means you can call your team The Zack Attack and Rick-roll your league mates to this video.
Elvis Andrus, SS, Rangers (6th round, take in 4th or 5th): Time for a blind résumé. Name the two players who put up these stats in 2011.
Player A: 101 runs, 7 home runs, 44 RBIs, 39 SB.
Player B: 96 runs, 5 home runs, 60 RBIs, 37 SB.
The biggest fantasy difference between Player B, our hero Elvis Andrus, and Player A, Jose Reyes, is the batting average; Reyes had a .337 average last year and Andrus was a .279 guy. But Andrus not only cut down on his strikeouts last year, he actually walked more than he struck out in the second half. As he's just 23 years old, I expect similar numbers to last season with some batting average improvement. Make no mistake, Jose Reyes (whom I like a lot, incidentally) is better than Elvis Andrus. But he's not four rounds better than him, yet that's how they're being drafted.
Shane Victorino, OF, Phillies (6th round, take in 5th): Quick quiz to impress your friends, assuming, of course, that your friends are impressed by nerdy fantasy trivia and that you in fact have friends. Name the only players to have at least 84 runs scored, 17 home runs, 60 RBIs and 19 steals each of the past two seasons? There are only three: Carlos Gonzalez, Chris Young and Shane Victorino. What if we raise it to 25 steals, which is the minimum number Victorino has had for each of the four seasons before last year, when he struggled with hamstring and thumb injuries? The answer is: nobody. A career .279 hitter, Victorino contributes across the board in multiple categories in a way very few others do, without hurting you in any one category the way Chris Young does. Always underrated.
Carl Crawford, OF, Red Sox (7th round, take in the 4th or 5th): He's Carl Crawford. (Weasel voice): Yeah, but, last year, bad stat, bad stat, blah blah blah He's Carl Crawford. I repeat. He's Carl Crawford. My colleagues are nuts for ranking him like this. The average draft position (influenced by said ranks) is nuts. What's more likely, that he disappoints like he did last year, or that he produces like a stud the way he did every single season from 2003 to 2010? Yes, there is injury concern, which is why he's a fourth-round guy, not a second-rounder. He's Carl Crawford. Once again. Carl. Crawford.
Michael Morse, 1B/OF, Nationals (8th round, take in the 6th): Things that are legit: Michael Morse's power, a Chick-Fil-A sandwich, kids selling lemonade on the side of the street, Michael Morse's playing time, a warm towel when you get out of the shower, Barry from "Storage Wars," the dearth of 30-homer first basemen, especially in the NL, and this.
Ian Kennedy, SP, Diamondbacks and Stephen Strasburg, SP, Nationals (9th round, take in the 8th): Many folks think Kennedy got lucky last year and that Strasburg isn't worth it based on his innings limit. Many folks are wrong. Look closer, kids. This is the Mayor of Stud City and his crazy hot girlfriend. You get to decide who is who.
Madison Bumgarner, P, Giants (9th round, take in 7th or 8th): Brutal in the month of April, posting a 6.17 ERA last year. Maybe it was the weather, maybe he was a bit banged up; I honestly don't know. This is what I do know: Starting May 1, his 2.83 ERA was 11th-best in MLB (better than Sabathia over that time frame), as was his 175 strikeouts (tied with Lincecum, more than Halladay). His 2.49 FIP was third-best in baseball and his 1.14 WHIP was 17th-best. In short, he was all that and a box of Pop Tarts. Better than what his overall numbers suggest, this 22-year-old is, as they say in the biz, on the come.
Kevin Youkilis, 3B, Red Sox (9th round, take in the 6th): Stop me if you've heard this one before. DUDE! He's Kevin Youkilis! Carl Crawford's teammate! Power was a bit down last year and he hit a few more ground balls, but "whatevs. " He was also hurt a lot of last year, but is healthy now. Most of the underlying numbers look intact to me, and to say last year was a lost season for many of the Red Sox is an understatement. I acknowledge the potential of getting re-injured, but that's why he's in the sixth and not the third. The fact that there are 10 third basemen going ahead of Youk is a Metta World Peace level of crazy. He's Kevin Youkilis! The poster boy for "proven players off a bad year "(PPOBY), as discussed in the Draft Day Manifesto.
Jayson Werth, OF, Nationals (10th round, take in the 6th): If you read or even skimmed my Draft Day Manifesto this year (or even just read my Youkilis rant), you know I like proven players coming off one bad year. Well, Jayson Werth is a proven player coming off one bad year. Basically a 20/20 guy since getting full-time playing time in 2008, Werth isn't as good a hitter as his .296 in 2010 suggests, but he's also not as bad as the .232 last year incoherently slurs. Yes, he struck out a bit more and walked a bit less, perhaps pressing to justify his ridiculous contract. But a .286 batting average on balls in play (career .324) didn't help, and he showed signs of bouncing back in the second half (.255 post-All-Star, .215 prior) with a better home run-per-at-bat rate in the second half as well. He's a total PPOBY. Nats are going to be sneaky good this year.
Adam Wainwright, P, Cardinals (11th round, take in the 8th): You either believe he is healthy and will stay that way, in which case he needs to go earlier than the 11th, or you do not, in which case he'll probably fail to return even that much value. Either way, the 11th is the wrong round. And me? I believe.
Howard Kendrick, 2B-OF, Angels (12th round, take in the 10th): Hiya! Nice to meet ya! Don't come round these parts often, do ya? Well, pay no mind. It's just little ol' me, hanging out. With my 86 runs from last year. Ya know, that year I wasn't hitting in front of Albert Pujols? Yep, folks 'round these parts like to mention my career .292 average, my double-digit homers and speed in each of the past three years and my 60-odd RBIs every season since '09, but I just like to focus on the fact that I'm a second baseman and an outfielder. Pardon? Oh, the gas station is 2 miles up, yonder. Right. Never mind.
Freddie Freeman, 1B, Braves (13th round, take in the 10th): Time for another blind résumé.
Player A: .282 in 571 at-bats, 67 runs, 21 home runs, 76 RBIs, 4 SB.
Player B: .293 in 523 at-bats, 66 runs, 19 home runs, 78 RBIs, 11 SB.
OK, so "Player A" had almost 50 more at-bats to get his numbers and still had seven fewer steals while hitting 11 points worse. But basically, these guys are the same fantasy player, right? Well, Player A is, as you might have guessed, Freddie Freeman. Player B is Eric Hosmer, currently going eight rounds ahead of Freeman. Now, Freeman strikes out a lot more than Hosmer, and there is value in Hosmer's steals, especially at first base. But as our profile on Freeman notes, he improved in the second half and actually draws more walks than Hosmer. Hosmer is a stud. But he's not eight rounds studlier.
Brandon Beachy, SP, Braves (14th round, take in the 11th): His 10.74 strikeouts-per-nine last season were the most among any pitcher who threw at least 140 innings. By comparison, Justin Verlander's K/9 was 8.96. When the Current Mrs. Roto and I had twin daughters earlier this year, did I attempt to name them Brandon and Beachy? Mayyyyybe.
Neftali Feliz, SP, Rangers (15th round, 13th): The Rangers have had pretty good success with that whole reliever-to-starter thing, no?
Cameron Maybin, OF, Padres (16th round, 13th): Come for the steals, stay for the breakout. He's just 25, kids. Twenty. Five.
Logan Morrison, OF, Marlins (17th round, 14th): He was up, he was down, he was a social media darling. Lotta crazy going on last year for LoMo, yet at the end of it he finished with 23 homers and 72 RBIs, very respectable for a 24-year-old just trying to make his way in this kooky world. New manager, new park, new knees (well, operated on); he's a great bet for at least 20 and 80 with a good average and some upside.
Emilio Bonifacio, SS-3B-OF, Marlins (18th round, 13-14th round): Ole! It's not just the multi-position eligibility, the crazy speed, the new manager who LOVES to run (he could steal 60 this year, easy) or the many vowels in his name (always a crowd-pleaser) that lands Emilio on this list. It's the fact he learned to take a walk and is going to play every day. This is another player whose ESPN ranking I disagree with in a big way, especially knowing that Ozzie's teams attempted over 530 steals the last three seasons.
Danny Espinosa, 2B, Nationals (20th round, 19th): Batting average, schmatting average. It's the 19th round and there's still one middle infielder on the board with legit 20/20 potential. Done.
Edwin Encarnacion, 3B, Blue Jays (21st round, 19th): Fantasy. Kryptonite. Must …stay …away! Can't resist. Must have, must have. Danger! Danger, TMR! Danger! Will stay healthy one year! Such power potential. Still just 29! Will DH! Must have! (breaks down sobbing). I am so weak.
Adam Dunn, 1B, White Sox (22nd round, 20th): PPOBY! He's either, er, done, or last year was a fluke. So you either have a steal of a guy who could hit 30-plus homers, or you have the first guy you drop when a hot free agent comes around. The point is, at this point in the draft, you need to be, er, swinging for the fences, not taking a guy like Alex Gonzalez (going three picks ahead of him). Gonzalez is fine, but whatevs, yo. Give me the upside of Dunn. If I don't get Gonzalez, I can find a similar shortstop on the waiver wire in mid-April. Actually, I can probably get Gonzalez himself, after his owner dumps him three weeks in.
Raul Ibanez, OF, Yankees (23rd round, 21st): A total down season for him last year, he still wound up with 20 home runs and 84 RBIs, his seventh consecutive season with at least 80 RBIs and his sixth (of the past seven) with at least 20 home runs. His .268 BABIP (career .303) suggests he got somewhat unlucky (career .280 hitter). He's older and definitely struggled some last year, and maybe he was pressing a bit more (career low walk percentage), but dude. It's the 23rd round. He's going to DH for the Yankees. Yankee Stadium is a perfect fit for his swing. He's got a real shot at 100 RBIs in that lineup, with solid power, maybe 75 runs scored, and hopefully an average that won't kill you. PPOBY.
Johan Santana, P, Mets (24th round, 22nd): You know the old joke, right? You don't need to be faster than the bear, you just gotta be faster than your buddy. Johan Santana doesn't need to be the stud ace he used to be, he just needs to be better than a 24th-round pitcher. And he will be. Love Santana this year for what it costs to get him. Another PPOBY.
Big Fat Bartolo Colon, P, A's (25th round, 24th): On this list, either as a love or a hate, always and forever. I'll take the hit on offense for a better park and division. This year, he will waddle into your heart.
Others receiving votes
Here's a bunch of players I like that I either didn't have room for (like, I think Justin Upton is a guy who should go in the first but is going in the second, but I already had Adrian and CarGo there), or are better as deep AL- or NL-only league picks (noted by an asterisk). Click on their names for a detailed profile (written by our crack fantasy staff), or just keep reading me this preseason. They will all come up one way or the other. So here are some more players whom maybe I don't love but whom I really, really like, in team-by-team order.
Nolan Reimold, J.J. Hardy, Jim Johnson, Matt Wieters, Jason Hammel*. Andrew Bailey, Mike Aviles*, Ryan Lavarnway*, Nick Swisher, Ben Zobrist, Matt Joyce, Sean Rodriguez*, Eric Thames, Sergio Santos, Colby Rasmus, I can't quit Brandon Morrow, Alex Rios (sigh), John Danks (fits into my PPOBY theory), Chris Sale, Addison Reed, Shin-Soo Choo (PPOBY), Vinnie Pestano, Michael Brantley, Lonnie Chisenhall*, Jason Kipnis*, Brennan Boesch, Alex Avila (don't think it was a fluke), Max Scherzer (sigh), Andy Dirks*, Eric Hosmer, Jeff Francoeur (less fluky than you think), Jonathan Sanchez (sigh), Mark Trumbo, Kendrys Morales (PPOBY), Ervin Santana, Coco Crisp, Mike Carp, Martin Prado, The Sanchize (Gaby & Anibal), Carlos Zambrano*, Lucas Duda, Daniel Murphy, Jon Niese, R.A. Dickey, Ty Wigginton, Wilson Ramos, Jordan Zimmermann, Gio Gonzalez, Mike Leake, Homer Bailey*, Jose Altuve, J.D. Martinez, Brett Myers, Wandy Rodriguez (sigh), Jed Lowrie*, Rickie Weeks (sigh), Nyjer Morgan, Chris Narveson*, Mat Gamel*, Alex Presley, Jose Tabata, Clint Barmes*, Erik Bedard* (sigh), Carlos Beltran, Jon Jay*, Ryan Roberts (not a fluke), Daniel Hudson, David Hernandez*, Dexter Fowler, Jhoulys Chacin, Juan Nicasio*, Dee Gordon (should have been a love, frankly), Kenley Jansen (as required by fantasy analyst law, but for the record, he was on this list last year, before it was cool), Will Venable (sigh), Cory Luebke (also should have been a love), Tim Stauffer*.
Guys I hate
Robinson Cano, 2B, Yankees (Being drafted in the 1st round, I would wait until the 2nd): Dontcha know? He's everything you want in a second baseman. Power. Average. Brave. Kind. Loyal. A ghostwriter on much of Lady Gaga's last album. There's only one thing he can't do: play a different position. The issue isn't with Cano, but rather second base, where there is really nice depth this year compared with previous years. As great as Cano was last year, he wasn't even the best fantasy second baseman. That was Dustin Pedroia, according to our Player Rater. And Ian Kinsler wasn't far behind in third. Cano doesn't run, he doesn't hit for crazy power (despite winning the home run derby, he has never topped 30 home runs in a season), struck out a career-high 96 times last year and he's no longer at a super-scarce position. I love him,, but I don't love taking him in the first 10 picks.
Justin Verlander, SP, Tigers, (2nd round, would wait for 3rd): "Runners on second and third, two down, here's the 2-2 pitch from Verlander it's a slow roller down the line, should be an easy –whoa, it's by Cabrera! One run is in, two runs are in and Detroit is not out of this inning yet, folks " Yeah. This is not going to go well.
Verlander is currently going 12th overall (first round in a 12-team league), but I actually have him just outside my overall top 20 and as the third pitcher off the board (behind Roy Halladay and Clayton Kershaw). As great as Verlander is, and he's amazeballs, he did get somewhat lucky last year (.236 BABIP, career .285, xFIP was 3.12 and his LOB% (runners left on base) was 80.3 percent, higher than his career average of 73.3 percent). He had, clearly, a career year. Never pay for a career year, kids. Right up there with "Never get involved in a land war in Asia" and "Never go in against a Sicilian when death is on the line"! He'll be one of the elite guys this year, but I expect a regression that will bring him in line with his 2010 numbers (3.37 ERA, 1.16 WHIP), especially with his suspect defense this year, making him a very good pitcher, but not a top-12 kinda guy.
Mark Teixeira, 1B, Yankees (3rd round, wait for the 4th): A year after he hit .256, Mark Teixeira hit .248. It is now officially, as the kids say, a thing. The power is still there, but the average isn't coming back any time soon. He posted his lowest walk rate since 2007; he is traditionally a good second-half player. Yet his 14 home runs post-All-Star break were the lowest of his career since 2003, as were his 38 runs and 46 RBIs. Our player profile on him notes other flaws, including his lack of ground balls, and I'll throw in his lowest OPS since 2003 as long as I'm kicking dirt on the guy. He's like Dan Uggla with a bit more batting average, or an even safer Mark Reynolds. Which is fine, except he's costing a lot more than those guys are.
Ryan Zimmerman, 3B, Nationals (4th, wait for the 5th): It's like the classic "American Pie" quote, "This one time, at band camp ." Well, just this one time, at Nats park, Zimmerman had more than 100 RBIs and 100 runs (2009). And this one other time, at Nats park, Zimmerman hit better than .300 (2010), and this one time, at Nats park, Zimmerman had double-digit steals (2006), and this one time, Zimmerman hit ground balls more than 50 percent of the time, had career lows in isolated power and HR/FB rate (last year!) and then, this one time, at Nats park, he signed a $100 million dollar extension and is hooked up for the rest of his life (also last year).
Hunter Pence, OF, Phillies (5th round, 6th): Time for another blind résumé!
Player A: .314 in 606 AB, 84 runs, 22 HRs, 97 RBIs, 8 SB.
Player B: .303 in 611 AB, 101 runs, 23 HRs, 87 RBIs, 17 SB.
So Player A is Hunter Pence, currently going 40th overall. Player B? Alex Gordon, who is going at Pick 59. Yeah, you say, but I don't believe in Gordon. OK, fine. I'm not sure I buy Pence's average (.361 BABIP last year, career .328); think he'll be much closer to his career .292 average but OK, slow your roll, Pence lover. You like the fact that he's proven. I get it. Let's try again, with some more players:
Pence: .314 in 606 AB, 84 runs, 22 HRs, 97 RBIs, 8 SB.
Player C: .300 in 520 AB, 78 runs, 22 HRs, 84 RBIs, 4 SB.
Player D: .299 in 525 AB, 68 runs, 21 HRs, 86 RBIs, 0 SB.
Pence has more steals than both of them and a significant run advantage over Player D. But when I tell you Player C is Carlos Beltran (currently going in the 12th round) and that Player D is Jhonny Peralta (14th round) well, then, is there really a seven- or nine-round difference here? One more, just to really drive this home.
Pence: .314 in 606 AB, 84 runs, 22 HRs, 97 RBIs, 8 SB.
Player E: .309 in 525 AB, 84 runs, 29 HRs, 96 RBIs, 1 SB.
Player E is David Ortiz, going in the eighth round.
Obviously there's some position scarcity to consider here, but whether it's guys like Adam Jones or Corey Hart (when healthy), there are lots of guys that are almost as good and much cheaper, especially when you consider the fact that you can't count on Pence for double-digit steals anymore (seems to be running less and Philly was just 19th last year in steals), and we expect some batting-average regression. He's very solid, but you can find similar stats much cheaper.
Brett Lawrie, 3B, Blue Jays (6th round, 7th): One hundred and fifty at-bats, kids. That's all he has in the major leagues. Really, really small sample size. Remember how excited everyone was for Jason Heyward last year? He's being drafted ahead of guys like Brandon Phillips, Jimmy Rollins, Elvis Andrus, Starlin Castro, Aramis Ramirez, Carl Crawford ! Drafting him here, you've taken any potential profit away.
Aramis Ramirez, 3B, Brewers (7th round, 8th): Last three seasons at Wrigley Field: .329 in 641 AB, 35 HR, 138 RBI, 85 strikeouts. Past three years on the road: .246 in 695 AB, 31 HR, 103 RBI, 117 strikeouts. In 300 career at-bats at Miller Park, he's a .270 hitter. As our great Stats & Information blog points out, of Ramirez's 14 home runs at Wrigley in 2011, six of those fly balls would not have left Miller Park. He has missed 131 games the last three seasons. He is 33 years old. And just got paid.
B.J. Upton, OF, Rays (8th round, 9th): What did your batting average ever do to you?
Michael Pineda, SP, Yankees (9th round, 12th): You know why New York is the city that never sleeps? It's because they're up all night trying to think of new ways to complain about their sports teams. Many a fine pitcher has gone to the Big Apple only to start whimpering like they're the sniveling kid in the corner waiting for Harry Potter to show up. We're a week in and they're already talking about Pineda's weight gain and his lost velocity. Let's say he loses the weight, regains the velocity, that the second-half fade last year (5.12 ERA post-All-Star) and his poor numbers away from Safeco (4.40 ERA on the road last season) were the result of bad luck, which I actually sort of buy. And let's ignore this stat that Mark Simon from ESPN Stats & Information points out:
Lefties versus Pineda in 1st half: .201 BA, 3 HRs, 209 AB
Lefties versus Pineda in 2nd half: .302 BA, 5 HRs, 116 AB
So we put all that aside and just think about this: He's 23 years old. New York ain't Seattle, the AL East ain't the AL West and I'm not drafting him ahead of guys like Ricky Romero, Adam Wainwright or Mat Latos.
Brian Wilson, P, Giants (10th round, 15th or later): Never pay for saves. Especially when they're from a closer who experienced elbow pain at the end of last season and is counting on rest to fix everything.
Desmond Jennings, OF, Rays (10th-11th round, 12th-13th): So, I used this blind resume in my Draft Day Manifesto, but that was 12,000 words, so it probably was the in the part you skimmed. Here it is again:
Player A: .333, 23 runs, 8 HRs, 20 RBIs, 14 SB.
Player B: .160, 21 runs, 2 HRs, 5 RBIs, 6 SB.
Player A is Desmond Jennings over his first 141 at-bats last season. Player B? Desmond Jennings over the next, and final, 106 at-bats. You've heard me, er, read me, talk about the PPOBY? Well this is the opposite. Young Guy With Small Sample Size. Or, conveniently, a YGWSSS. I like Jennings fine as a player, actually, but the love has gone too far, as it were. He has speed, which will always provide value, and I think the power seems to finally be coming in for the 25 year old. But you can't tell me he doesn't have batting average risk. (Hit just .275 and .278 in his past two seasons at Triple A, contact rate has been trending downward).
Let's do three more blind resumes:
Player C: .256, 82 Runs, 16 HR, 51 RBI, 37 SB
Player D: .243, 92 Runs, 15 HR, 44 RBI, 40 SB
Player E: .264, 82 Runs, 9 HR, 40 RBI, 40 SB
So "Player C" is actually our ESPN projections for Desmond Jennings this year. I think very fair. Full playing time, solid power, great speed ... maybe a little low on the runs depending on how you feel the Rays offense will do as a whole, but more or less right in line with the projections I have seen for him elsewhere. And certainly, the numbers aren't any better than players D or E.
Player D is Drew Stubbs last season, currently going in the 13th round, basically three rounds after Jennings is this year. And Player E? Less power, for sure, but is that difference in power worth six rounds? Because Player E is Cameron Maybin's breakout season, and he is currently going in round 16. Stubbs and Maybin have some risk, sure, but certainly are more proven than Jennings and they cost a lot less.
Jeremy Hellickson, P, Rays (11th round, 15th or later): A K/9 of under six, a BB/9 of over three, a FIP of 4.44, an xFIP of 4.72, a LOB % of 82 percent (second-highest in the majors last year) What's the opposite of a sabermetric darling? A gargoyle? A pariah? A.J. Burnett? Call him the Britney of fantasy. Looked pretty for a while but when it comes crashing down to earth, you want to be nowhere near that.
Derek Jeter, SS, Yankees (11th/12th round, 14th): On the plus side, after he does you in this season, you get a signed ball and gift basket.
Andre Ethier, OF, Dodgers (13th/14th round, 15th/16th): So, since 2009, Ethier's home run totals have gone from 31 to 23 to 11. Along with it, his isolated power numbers; .237, .201,.129. And just for fun, here are his RBIs the past three seasons: 106, 82, 62. I'm not going to speculate why he has lost his power except to say I don't much like it. He has no speed, he's had 71 runs or fewer each of the past two seasons despite getting over 550 plate appearances each season, and he'll be on the wrong side of 30 this April. He'll hit for average, but even if the power comes back to the 20-homer level, he's basically a two-category guy who is costing you much more than he should.
Nick Markakis, OF, Orioles (15th round, 16th or later): Every year I put Nick Markakis on my hate list. And every year, he makes me look good. Last three seasons, he has never been higher than 88th on the Player Rater, including an exciting 119 finish in 2010 (after being drafted around 70). Let's see if we can get a four-peat.
Doug Fister, SP, Tigers (16th, 17th or later): "Fister on to relieve Verlander, who just could not get out of the inning. Many folks wondering why they would go to another starter in this situation but they don't realize it works much better for the joke. Here's the sinker now and Ichiro slaps it down the line to first, which should be an easy -- and it's by Fielder! One run is in, two runs are in, everyone's safe and… wait, what's this? Rick Porcello has suddenly jumped the fence and is now driving away from the stadium in a golf cart! Someone get him! He's got to warm up! "
Others receiving votes
Decided to end it at 16 rounds because honestly, it's hard to say you're overpaying on a 17th-round pick. But here are some guys that, while I don't "hate," I do think there are better options around where they're generally being drafted. Slight dislike, if you will.
Clay Buchholz, Curtis Granderson (if you believe how he hits left-handers is legit, never mind), Joe Mauer, Jason Heyward, Travis Hafner, Grady Sizemore, Austin Jackson, Prince Fielder (if you're expecting over 35 home runs), Luke Hochevar, Bobby Abreu (per Mark Simon, the average fly ball hit by Abreu in 2010 traveled 320 feet. In 2011, the average fly ball that he hit traveled 300 feet), Yoenis Cespedes, Chone Figgins, Yu Darvish (bet he rocks in the first half and fades badly), Jason Bay on principle, Ian Stewart, Alfonso Soriano, Lance Berkman will fall short of last year, Rafael Furcal, Trevor Cahill, Chad Billingsley, James Loney, Carlos Quentin, Mark Ellis.
And that's a wrap for the preseason Love/Hate. Be sure to listen to the podcasts, read future articles, follow me on Twitter and Facebook for updates to this list, as I am sure it will change throughout spring training. Good luck in your drafts and/or auctions this year. And, you know, be excellent to each other. And party on.
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