The Problem Is Choice

As we fast approach the 8th annual thefoulline.com fantasy baseball draft, I’ve come across some difficult decisions in my prep work. A lot of players are frighteningly similar in average draft position, skill sets, and production. It’s on you to make the choice of who you want to be on your team. Sounds easy, right?

In a perfect world, all the players you’re considering drafting would have career seasons. The hitters would all hit .300 with 30 HRs and 115 RBI, and the pitchers would all win 15+ games. But of course that’s not the case. As we all have found out the hard way, one of the players you’re considering will have an MVP-type season. The other will spend 10 weeks on the DL. You have to navigate the minefield and make choices that won’t sink your season before the first pitch is thrown.

Three years ago, Dave wrote a post called Weapon Of Choice where he went into detail on this very problem. It’s time for a follow-up. Here are some of the choices that I’ve found myself facing.

Mike Trout or Clayton Kershaw?

Who’s number one? That’s the decision facing Dennis and his October Boys as he secures the first overall pick for the 47th consecutive season. This choice boils down to your base philosophy in building a fantasy baseball team. Do you go with the best pitcher in the world, or the young phenom who finally secured his elusive first AL MVP last year? A year ago, this was a no-brainer. But Kershaw has put himself so far ahead of every other pitcher that you have to stop and consider the advantage he gives you over the field. Add in the fact that Trout seems to be regressing, as his OPS, OBP, batting average, and SBs have all plummeted, and you have a real decision to make. But at the end of the day, there are far fewer elite hitters than elite pitchers, and that makes Trout the pick here. But I can’t fault anyone for going the other way.

Felix Hernandez, David Price, or Chris Sale?

We all know what Clayton Kershaw brings to the table, but who’s the second pitcher off the board? All these guys are strong candidates, and all have things that set them apart. Felix Hernandez piles up the innings and strikeouts but has had trouble securing wins on a mediocre Mariners team. David Price is probably the best workhorse in MLB at this point, throwing an absurd 250 innings last year, while leading the majors in strikeouts and having an amazing walk rate. But he’s a little too hittable and seems to have trouble keeping his ERA down. Chris Sale is probably the most dominant of the three, but he can never seem to have a fully healthy season and has trouble piling up the innings needed to be an elite fantasy ace. If you’re willing to take a chance that Chris Sale could finally exceed 225+ innings, you could have the AL answer to Clayton Kershaw, but Felix Hernandez is the guy here. Safe, dependable, and more wins coming with an improved Mariners offense.

Andrew McCutchen or Giancarlo Stanton?

Again with a who’s number 2? This time it’s in the outfield. Nobody broke out in a bigger way than Stanton last year, cranking 37 jacks, 105 RBI, with a .290 batting average and a career-high 94 walks. Still just 25 years old, on an improving Marlins team, the sky is the limit, right? Maybe. He still has an issue staying healthy, only playing 150 games one time in his career. McCutchen, meanwhile, is an absolute rock, finishing in the top 5 in H2H points leagues for three straight years. Personal experience, last year I took Ryan Braun instead of McCutchen because I wanted Braun’s 40 HR, 30 SB, .315 BA upside. You know all the rest. McCutchen dominated, while Braun was a shell of his former self and was off my team by mid-May. Stanton has the upside to be the best hitter in fantasy baseball, but if you’re picking in the top 5, safety has value. McCutchen is who you want here.

Corey Kluber or Johnny Cueto?

Both these guys broke out in a big way last year and will be drafted in the mid 2nd round. But who can you trust? Can you trust either? The answer is yes… It’s Corey Kluber. This may be a bit of an upset, but Kluber is someone I’m targeting in all my mocks. He’s a 1st-round type arm with a 2nd-round price tag because people just can’t get behind “one-year wonders.” (See RA Dickey, 2012.) Kluber is no fluke. All his advanced numbers are legit. He’s a strikeout pitcher with supreme control who piles up innings. Maybe I’m biased here, but I just can’t get behind Johnny Cueto. He’s burned me before, multiple times, and I just keep waiting for that strained dreadlock or whatever stupid injury he misses six weeks with. Kluber and Cueto have nearly identical average draft position, and most people will lean Cueto. But trust me, you’re gonna regret it…

What decisions do you find yourself stuck with in your mock drafts? Let us know! Try not to pick the wrong guy on draft day (a talent I seem to have mastered), because it will leave you scrambling and making decisions that hurt your team in the long run to make up for short-term losses.

Like Neo said throughout the Matrix trilogy, “The Problem is Choice.”

The First Days of Spring

Another Spring Training is upon us! The sun is shining. The grass is freshly cut. The birds are singing. Baseball is back!

And I still despise the Tampa Bay Rays.

I feel the need to clarify this, because today I spent yet another morning at the Rays Spring Training facility in the beautiful, historic town of Port Charlotte. My motivation to go see the Rays practice is always the same. I get to spend a few hours in the beautiful weather watching baseball, and if I can trip a few Rays players while I’m there, even better!

Here are my short and sweet observations from Rays camp today:

  • I watched every catcher in the Rays system practice throwing to the bases. Newcomer Ryan Hanigan has the worst arm out of all of them.
  • Grant Balfour was already in mid-season form with his potty mouth. He dropped more F-bombs during practice than the first hour of Pulp Fiction. But he curses in Australian, so it wasn’t that bad.
  • Chris Archer looked great today, and it wasn’t hard to notice that everyone in the Rays organization likes this kid. Brains and talent!
  • It was easy to see that David Price and Evan Longoria have taken a leadership-by-example approach this season. Both guys were the first ones in the drill lines, and would run to the next field during their 15-minute rotations.
  • Jose Molina is still really fat.
  • Not to beat a dead horse, but how does Dave Martinez not have a manager job yet? Even worse, you don’t even hear him being in the discussion anymore.
  • The Rays will win the AL East and play in the World Series this year.

I’m going to go watch practice again later this week. I’ll be sure to bring a few Rays voodoo dolls with me.

You Complete Me

I don’t consider myself a writer. I’m a guy that enjoys talking about baseball and sharing my opinions with a group of educated baseball fans. During the baseball season, I read every article I can get my hands on, and I follow a bunch of baseball writers on Twitter. Of all the writers I follow, there are a handful that are a must-read every day. Pete Abraham & Nick Cafardo with the Boston Globe, Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com, and Jayson Stark and Tim Kurkjian with ESPN. But my favorite of all is Buster Olney.

Buster Olney is everywhere… Baseball Tonight, Twitter, Podcasts, SportsCenter, and ESPN’s baseball telecasts. He also writes a daily article on ESPN.com in which he links all the baseball news for all the MLB teams. It’s always a good read. He really is the hardest working guy in baseball.

I had planned on going to the Rays practice today with my buddy Trent (RedRays) and a couple of friends from work. While making our plans, I noticed on Twitter that ESPN and Buster Olney were going to be in Port Charlotte. I relayed this to Trent, who replied, “We gotta get a pic with him for thefoulline.com!” This became our mission.

We arrived at the stadium at 9:30 to a capacity crowd of twenty other fans. The gates opened and we made our way to the closest field to watch the Rays stretch, run 20-yard dashes, and play catch. We were able to score a prime fence-line position in front of the immortal Shelley Duncan (who promptly shouted “Nobody likes you!” to an annoyingly obnoxious fan that has some sort of personal vendetta against Jose Molina) and the enigmatic Yunel Escobar, who for some odd reason got along great with the loud obnoxious jackass. He even tossed the loudmouth a ball. That sounds about right.

We worked our way around the park checking out the different fields. No sign of Buster.

We watched Matt Moore throw batting practice. I know it’s early, but he was all over the place. I only saw him throw a handful of strikes the entire session. We witnessed James Loney making a SportsCenter top-10 catch during fielding drills, and a bewildered Jeff Niemann having trouble keeping the ball down in PFP.

Practice was winding down, and still no Buster. I was receiving texts from thefoulline.com headquarters inquiring on the status of the Buster meet & greet. I had nothing to report.

But as the clock struck 11 am, who do I see walking down the center sidewalk, notepad in hand? It’s Buster Olney!

I walked up to him and told him I was a big fan and enjoyed his writing. He seemed taken aback by this and maybe a little embarrassed. Maybe he doesn’t have many lunatic blog writers bum-rush him at spring training practices? I asked for a quick picture with him. Redrays was Johnny-on-the-spot and snapped a keeper. I thanked Buster for his time and said it was nice to meet him. He replied, “Any idea which field Wil Myers is on?” I just happened to know exactly where he was. “Sure, I’ll show you.” As we walked to the field, we had a quick Q&A:

Buster: so are you a Rays fan?
Me: Nope… I like the Red Sox. This park is just so convenient to watch practice.
Buster: How do you think they’re going to do this year?
Me: They have to be better than last season, right?
Buster: It’s hard to say… They all really hated each other last year. The guys they brought in may make a difference.
Me: They were hard to watch. Hopefully their mojo is better at least.
Buster: Well, gotta go… Good luck with your Sox this year!
Me: You complete me!
Ok, that last part didn’t happen, but this encounter with Buster Olney confirmed my thoughts about him. He’s engaging, friendly, and professional. It was worth the trip to Charlotte County Stadium.

Rays-centric Quick Hits:

  • How does Dave Martinez not have a managing job? When he was asked this today by a fan, he replied, “I want to win one in Tampa before going anywhere else.” He’s a class act.
  • Luke Scott is crazy. He hung the boar’s head that he killed with a spear in the Rays clubhouse. He talks to everyone – players, coaches, fans, security guards. Is he the new Jonny Gomes in Tampa?
  • I watched Chris Archer throw some serious cheese. He has an easy, effortless delivery that pops the catcher’s mitt on every throw.
  • Speaking of impressive performances… Juan Sandoval had quite a crowd around him during his pitching session. He looked good, throwing strike after strike. What made this even more impressive? He’s blind in his right eye.
  • I saw Super-GM Andrew Friedman walk into a port-a-potty while chatting on his cellphone, then walk out while still talking. I’m guessing he didn’t wash his hands.
  • Watched super prospect Wil Myers take BP today. He didn’t rake like I had hoped, but RedRays and I both noticed he doesn’t wear batting gloves. This led to RedRays asking, “Do you think he pees on his hands like Moises Alou?”
  • It blows my mind that the Rays don’t have more fans. They have a quality organization, great spring training facility, and legitimate superstars in Price and Longoria, and they compete every year. They deserve better.

We finished the day at The October Boys’s restaurant, Bocca Lupo in Port Charlotte. It’s the best pizza around. It was a perfect ending to a fun day. Check it out when you’re down here for spring training!

I’ll Be Brief

Week two of our season is in the books, and the competition is as fierce as ever. I have never started a fantasy season 1-0, so to be one of only 3 teams to be 2-0 after two weeks is blowing my mind.

So far this season there have been a few interesting trades. I really liked WILLIS Be The Year going against conventional wisdom and trading Hanley for stud pitcher and chronic mound-sprinter Cliff Lee. I think this trade is a good deal for both teams, unlike the shellacking I gave Allan in the Gallardo/VMart deal. Keep throwing those 90-mph fastballs Yovani!

I’m going to keep this post short. The Boston Bad Boy is in town for a couple of days and we’re heading to the Trop to see Edwin Jackson outduel David Price. So without further adieu… here are your Week 2 power rankings.

  1. Yankeehaters
  2. Rays Those Cowbells
  3. bostobadboys
  4. chefdicks11
  5. Love Boat Captains
  6. RedRays
  7. WILLIS Be The Year
  8. Sam’s Baseball Train
  9. UNsportsmanMike
  10. ToPpIn Da ChArTz

 

Go Sox!

You’re My Favorite

After spending a great day at the ballpark with my family, surrounded by really nice people, great weather and ballplayers busting their butts, I’m reminded of what a great game baseball is to watch.

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called The Best of What’s Around. The post listed a team of players that I really enjoyed watching. Guys that played hard, weren’t jerks, and had a little personality. After today’s game, I’m inspired to write another one.

Once again, these guys aren’t the best players, but they’re all guys that I enjoy watching play the great game of baseball.

  • Catcher: Victor Martinez
    I like that he hits .300 and that he’s good for 20+ home runs a year. I love that he individualizes a different handshake for all 25 members of his team.
  • First Base: Prince Fielder
    Fat guys are jolly. And he’s the only 300-pound vegetarian in the world.
  • Second Base: Dustin Pedroia
    This is a no-brainer. He plays hard, he’s a smart-ass, and he’s my favorite player. Man-crush? That’s none of your damn business!
  • Third Base: Kevin Youkilis
    Sure, he looks like Yukon Cornelius, perspires like someone dumped a bucket of water on him, and has the weirdest batting stance in the league. I like that he gets super pissed
    like it’s game 7 of the World Series every time he makes an out. He’s a gamer.
  • Shortstop: Troy Tulowitzki
    I’m really not crazy about any of the shortstops in the league. Tulo rakes, but he has the tendency to get hurt every season. I figured I’d include him to show my support for my Polish readers. Plus, he grew a mullet for charity last season, which is awesome.
  • Outfield: Nick Swisher
    Ok, let’s get this out of the way: Yes, I know he’s a Yankee. But Swisher seems like a really good dude. He has his own charity called Swish’s Wishes that helps out sick kids, and another that supports our U.S troops overseas. He’s a damn Yankee, but he’s ok in my book.
  • Outfield: Curtis Granderson
    Yup, another Yankee. This guy is fun to watch. My wife nicknamed him “Crazy Legs,” because when he sprints around the bases his legs are flailing around like a newborn giraffe learning how to run. Plus. this guy always has a smile on his face. If I played for the heartless, soul-sucking New York Yankees, I’d be pissed. But to each his own, I guess.
  • Outfield: Ryan Braun
    The Hebrew Hammer is the best outfielder on the planet and just too good to pass over on my team.
  • Pitcher: Ryan Dempster
    Solid pitcher. Does a great impersonation of Harry Caray. Provides the comic relief on my team.
  • Pitcher: David Price
    Signs more autographs at the Rays spring training practices than any other player. Plus, a friend of mine ran into him at a crappy Port Charlotte eatery and confirmed that he’s a good guy.
  • Pitcher: Ted Lilly
    His middle name is Roosevelt! Theodore Roosevelt Lilly. It’s the greatest name in baseball. Little guy, huge name.
  • Pitcher: Jon Lester
    The silent assassin. I like that this guy doesn’t say five words during the entire season. He just goes out and wins. I really like that he’s going to win the Cy Young award this year.
  • Pitcher: Cole Hamels
    There’s nothing that he does in particular that I love, except crushing the Tampa Bay Rays in the World Series. And that’s enough.
  • Closer: Brian Wilson
    Without a doubt,  this New Hampshirite is the craziest guy in all of baseball. I fear the beard… big time!
  • Manager: Earl Weaver
    This guy was Bobby Cox before Bobby Cox was. Weaver was once thrown out of a game while exchanging lineup cards at home plate. This team needs a fiery leader, and this guy is downright nuclear. And I went to a Baltimore Orioles game today, so he’s in.

This is the team of favorites I came up with. Good all-around guys. Of course, no team is complete without a few good bench players. Who should we add to the team?