Commentary

Fantasy Predictions 2009: A-Rod's odd-year explosion

Updated: January 5, 2009, 10:45 AM ET
By Tristan H. Cockcroft | ESPN.com

What does 2009 hold in store for the world of fantasy sports? We surveyed our team of fantasy analysts and editors for the answers. Check out all twelve completed surveys by using the drop-down menu. (Some surveys were abridged to protect the innocent.)

Your name:
Tristan H. Cockcroft

But you wish to be referred to as:
You pick, but I admit I'm less likely to be enthusiastic in response to "Hey, dirtbag!" Get creative. "Turk" always gives me a chuckle.

You're a shameless, unabashed fan of:
Da New York Yankees! (In George Costanza voice.) Also Giants and Devils, but I admit first and foremost that I bleed Yankee blue, literally, like the dude who bleeds Packers green and gold on the commercial.

But we shouldn't hold it against you because:
Oscar Azocar. Wade Taylor. Jeff Johnson. I'm a lifer, not a bandwagon-hopper. (By the way, can you really bandwagon-hop a team that hasn't won a World Series in eight years?) And even I admit the spending is entirely out of control.

Your fondest sports wish for 2009 is:
To acquire a pair of seats from Yankee Stadium, when it's demolished (sigh).

Why will this happen/not happen?
Because someone has to pay Mark Teixeira's salary (not to mention Alex Rodriguez's, Derek Jeter's, CC Sabathia's…), and somehow I don't think two pieces of 32-year-old blue plastic are worth paying assuredly upwards of $2,000.

Any sport, what is your biggest sleeper pick for 2009?
Tough call between Josh Johnson and Joe Flacco.

How high would you reach for that sleeper in a standard ESPN draft?
Johnson? Maybe 15th-16th round. Flacco? Not before the 10th. He'll be backup material on draft day, but that's a smart backup to get in the late rounds.

Which player are you buying into but is most likely to disappoint you?
Robinson Cano, because the guy has legitimate batting-title potential, but his sometimes lackadaisical approach to the game can sap his value … see 2007.

Which player are you not buying but who will likely disappoint everyone else?
Alexei Ramirez. He's already 27 years old and walked only 18 times last year.

Any sport, who will be the best rookie to emerge in 2009?
David Price. Best mix of talent and opportunity.

… but everyone is going to think it's going to be?
David Price. People aren't stupid; they know a talent like this when they see it.

Who will be …

[+] EnlargeAdrian Peterson
Tom Dahlin/Getty ImagesAdrian Peterson didn't disappoint his fantasy owners in 2008.

… the first player drafted in fantasy football leagues? Adrian Peterson
… the player everyone will wish they had drafted? Do you mean at No. 1 overall or otherwise? No. 1 overall, still Adrian Peterson.
… the first player drafted in the NFL draft? Matthew Stafford
… the first rookie drafted in fantasy football leagues? Chris Wells
… the first player drafted in fantasy baseball leagues? Hanley Ramirez
… the first pitcher? Tim Lincecum
… the first rookie? David Price
… the player who'll start his season in Triple-A to everyone's frustration? Matt Wieters … but fret not, prospective Wieters owners; if he does, there's a good chance he'll be back as quickly as Evan Longoria was in 2008.
… the NHL's top scorer? Alex Ovechkin
… the NBA's MVP? LeBron James
… the 2009 Sprint Cup champion? Kyle Busch

Mad Gabs

Fill in the blanks any which way you want to create 10 more predictions for 2009.

  1. In 2009, Nick Markakis will be quite a value for those who nab him in, say, the third or fourth round. A .300 batting average and 30 home runs should be easy, and if he were on a better team, he'd be a legitimate MVP candidate.
  2. There is no way that DeAngelo Williams will score 20 touchdowns. Too much respect for Jonathan Stewart, I have.
  3. Trevor Cahill will be this year's Justin Masterson, as in, you've probably never heard of him, but he'll be useful when -- that's right, when -- he gets his opportunity this summer. And as I said all year with Masterson, there's upside from his 2008 numbers. Both of 'em: great 2009 bargain bets in deeper leagues.
  4. Brett Favre will make a completely undeserved appearance in the Pro Bowl at Philip Rivers' expense in February. After that, my "Brett Favre blinders" go on until training camps open, by which time I'm sure he'll have retired, unretired and forced a trade to the Detroit Lions, where he'll throw 30 interceptions in an ugly, ugly curtain call. But c'mon, as Brett will say in August, it's a great place to play!
  5. If the Saints use him properly -- as they did in Weeks 11-16 -- then Pierre Thomas is going to be a top-10 running back in 2009.
  6. There will be five players who manage 200-plus strikeouts with a sub-3.00 ERA: Johan Santana, Tim Lincecum, CC Sabathia, Cole Hamels and Francisco Liriano
  7. … but only one player who wins 20 games: Sabathia. Seriously, can we just ditch wins as a fantasy category already?
  8. Matthew Berry will shock the world by selecting Megan Fox first overall in our annual "ultimate fantasy" draft.
  9. This is the year that Alex Gordon finally breaks out.
  10. 2009 will forever be remembered as the year the New York Yankees proved that you still can buy a World Series title. In future years it'll be looked back on as the year momentum really picked up for a salary-cap system in baseball.

The Name Game

A-Rod or Hanley Ramirez? Alex Rodriguez (odd-year, even-year thing).
Tim Lincecum or Johan Santana? Johan Santana.
Evan Longoria or Garrett Atkins? Evan Longoria. (Is it even close?)
Chase Utley or Dustin Pedroia? Chase Utley.
Manny Ramirez or Mark Teixeira? Manny Ramirez. (First base = deep.)
Tom Brady or Peyton Manning? Peyton Manning.
Michael Turner or LaDainian Tomlinson? Michael Turner. (LT2 will be 30!)
Randy Moss or Calvin Johnson? Calvin Johnson. (It's the nickname.)
Antonio Bryant or Marques Colston? Marques Colston.
Brandon Jacobs or Marion Barber? Marion Barber. (I'm a card-carrying member of the "No Homers Club.")
DeAngelo Williams or Clinton Portis? Clinton Portis.
Chris Paul or LeBron James (for the rest of the season)? LeBron James.
Danny Granger or Dirk Nowitzki (for next season)? Dirk Nowitzki. (Give me the power forward, please!)
Derrick Rose or Kevin Durant (for their careers)? Derrick Rose.
Alexander Ovechkin or Sidney Crosby (for the rest of the season)? Alexander Ovechkin.
Alexander Semin or Ilya Kovalchuk (for next season)? Alexander Semin (better supporting cast).
Steve Mason or Carey Price (for their careers)? Carey Price. (Just a hunch, he winds up the more consistent one.)
Jimmie Johnson or Carl Edwards? Jimmie Johnson.
Kyle Busch or Jeff Gordon? Kyle Busch. (Mmmm, M&Ms.)

Playing with Numbers

Baseball:

Francisco Rodriguez saves: 38
A.J. Burnett wins: 18
CC Sabathia's ERA: 2.99
Yovani Gallardo wins and strikeouts: 12 and 158
Manny Ramirez home runs and RBIs: 34 and 115
Matt Holliday home runs and RBIs: 34 and 108
Mark Teixeira home runs and RBIs: 35 and 113
Jay Bruce batting average and home runs: .268 and 26
Rafael Furcal average and steals: .295 and 31
Rafael Furcal average and steals against the Braves: .286 and 2

Football:

Adrian Peterson yards and touchdowns: 2,065 and 17
Drew Brees yards and touchdowns: 4,512 and 29
Tom Brady yards and touchdowns: 2,305 and 18
Kurt Warner starts: 10
Braylon Edwards yards, touchdowns and drops: 1,185, 10 and 15
Chad Ocho Cinco yards and touchdowns: 1,296 and 6
Chad Ocho Cinco ridiculous statements: 14 (going by the "Ocho Formula" of 20 minus touchdowns)

Hockey (end of 2008-09 season):

Evgeni Malkin points: 124
Sidney Crosby points: 117
Alexander Ovechkin goals: 59
Alexander Semin goals: 33
Alexander Semin missed games: 29
Martin Brodeur wins: 14 (exactly one more than needed for the record)
Phil Kessel points: 81
Mats Sundin points: 33
Combined points for Ottawa's big three: 231 (By the way, what, no love for Filip Kuba?)

Speak now or forever hold your peace

What question do you wish you had been asked on this survey?

Who's winning Super Bowl XLIII?

And the answer is?

Pittsburgh Steelers.

What question are you glad you weren't asked?

Name three big-name pitchers most likely to go under the knife in 2009.

Sucker! Now you have to answer.

Gee, thanks. OK, Carlos Zambrano -- I'll keep cautioning people on him. Erik Bedard -- that one's easy. And Jake Peavy -- I don't think contract concerns are the only reason the Padres are trying to deal him.

Tristan H. Cockcroft is a fantasy football, baseball and hockey analyst for ESPN.com. You can e-mail him here.