Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Where All This Came From

posted by Jon Williams
For various reasons I won't go into I've switched between a couple of blogs when publishing my fantasy baseball articles. The last site (fantasybaseballupdate.com) is one I will no longer use. I've gone through a painful process of transfering all the articles (that fit this format) to this blog which will become active again. Unfortunately I haven't figured out how to attach the proper dates to these posts so they all appear as if written today. Oh well.

Please take a look through the Spetember 20th posts I think you'll find some useful stuff in there. I will be adding new stuff almost everyday to this site. I hope you will find the site useful and informative. I also hope that you will be inspired to comment whether to tell me I'm crazy (a popular notion) or a genius (almost never suggested). Should you wish to contact me or send me your ideas, I'm happy to receive your e-mails at jonpwilliams@gmail.com or you can Instant Message me via AIM or Yahoo at bigjonempire.

Peace.

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San Francisco Giants Sign International Free Agent

posted by Jon Williams
The Giants who have become famous for neglecting their farm system and ignoring minor leaguers have signed a 16 years old Dominican Third Baseman. The Giants outbid the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and Mariners to get him. I've gotta believe the Giants think he's the second coming of ...some really good third baseman.

Check out the story:

"Everybody's excited," Giants general manager Brian Sabean said. "It's the first time in a while we were at the right place at the right time, because there was a lot of action on him. ... We just have to pick our spots because we don't spend like big-money clubs do in that area. He's a big-money club type of acquisition.

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Another Fantasy Sports Outlet

posted by Jon Williams
NBC


Join in! Everybody's doing it!

Check out this story:

NBC is launching an online fantasy football game tied to its much-hyped return to broadcasting the NFL this season. Fans will be able to sign up for the upcoming weekly game, Sunday Night Fantasy Football, starting on Aug. 18 at NBCSports.com or immediately at Rotoworld.com.

Unlike traditional fantasy football games, which incorporate real-life player and team performance statistics from an entire week's worth of NFL games, the new NBC-game will draw exclusively from the games featured on the new NBC Sunday Night Football broadcasts. Among the prizes available through the game, which will be free to all fans, is an all-expense paid trip to New York which will include a visit to NBC's Football Night in America studio show.

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2007 Sleeper Candidate

posted by Jon Williams
Heath Bell
Norfolk closer Heath Bell pumps his fist after striking out the last three batters to end the game against Columbus. Bell’s finished all 25 games in which he’s appeared for the Tides. VICKI CRONIS/THE VIRGINIAN-PILOT


Heath Bell is the closer of the Norfolk Tides. The Mets should be using him as a key part of their bullpen judging by his Triple-A numbers. Given an extended chance as the Red Sox have with Craig Hansen and Manny Delcarmen I could see Bell being every bit as successful and more.

2006 Norfolk Tides 26.2IP 19H 4R 2ER 4BB 40K 4WP 2wins 2loses 9saves 0.67era 0.86whip as of 08/08/06

From the Virginian Pilot:

As he has become accustomed to doing, Heath Bell struck out the side in the ninth inning, and he's finished all 25 games in which he's appeared for the Tides. Bell, who picked up the win in Saturday's game, struck out Stotts, Danny Garcia and Kevin Thompson. All three went down swinging. It was Bell's 10th save and he has 47 strikeouts in 29 2/3 innings. Bell hit 96 mph on four of the 14 pitches he threw.

Background:

He was selected by the Tampa Bay Devil Rays in the 69th round of the 1997 amateur draft but did not begin his professional career until 1998 when he signed with the Mets as an undrafted free agent.

Bell has spent his entire career in the Mets organization. He made is major league debut on August 24, 2004 pitching two scoreless innings with three strikeouts against the San Diego Padres. He is currently on the Mets' 40 man roster.

Generally a power pitcher, Bell has averaged nearly a full strikeout per inning but also proved to be hittable in his 2005 sophomore season allowing 10.8 hits per nine innings and a very high 5.59 earned run average.

Bell is married with three children and resides in Port St. Lucie, Florida
.

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Baseball appealing fantasy legal victory

posted by Jon Williams
By JEFF DOUGLAS Associated Press Writer

Major League Baseball says it will appeal a federal court ruling allowing an online fantasy baseball business to use names and statistics without paying for a licensing agreement.

MLB and its players' union also said Wednesday they expect to win back the right to demand money from fantasy sites like St. Louis-based CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc., which prevailed in its lawsuit in a federal court's summary judgment issued Tuesday.

CBC, which runs CDM Fantasy Sports, sued MLB Advanced Media last year, claiming the statistics and names used in fantasy baseball should be free.

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The Stock Exchange written for Sportsblurb.com

posted by Jon Williams

The Stock Exchange

By Jon Williams, Pinch-Hitting For Christopher Meyer

06/24/06

Words and Actions

In baseball, his words are considered worse than others' actions...

Ozzie Guillen has a big mouth.

It takes very little prodding to get him to rant about whatever it is that might be on his mind. Obviously this week it was his hatred – I don’t think you can call it anything else – for Chicago Sun-Times columnist Jay Mariotti. You only have to read Mariotti’s latest column to discover the genesis of this feud. Mariotti considers it his responsibility to publicly call Guillen on his every indiscretion. Guillen will tell you and anyone else who cares to listen that he does not actually have a problem with this. The problem in Guillen’s mind is that Mariotti refuses to come to the ballpark and face him as all the beat writers do.

Guillen might have a point if Mariotti was a beat writer, but he is not. Mariotti is a columnist that has the job we all wish we did. He goes to the NBA finals and flies from there to the next big event and from there to the next. Mariotti, in a rather wussy fashion, claims that the Chicago White Sox clubhouse is too dangerous a place for him to risk showing up. Of course, I am sure if reporters were being beat up after games we would have heard about it by now.

Many people will tell you that his feud with Mariotti is not the story. Instead they point to Ozzie Guillen’s use of the word “fag” in his tirade against Mariotti as the more serious problem. Read just about any article about Guillen from last week and you’ll see it suggested that Guillen be suspended for various lengths of time – Mariotti thinks two weeks – lose his job, be fined significantly, and on and on. Why? Because Guillen used what is considered a homophobic slur.

The problem with such thinking is that Guillen was not trying to call Jay Mariotti gay or imply that anything is wrong with being gay. It’s a stupid thing to say but it doesn’t make him a homophobe.

Bud Selig gave Guillen a stern talking to and has ordered him into sensitivity training. It can’t hurt, but I do not think sensitivity training is going to get at Guillen’s real problem. Guillen has a couple of problems I see as far more serious. First, his aggressive attitude that considers beaning players during a game the right thing to do and can get you thrown off the team if you don’t share it is a major one. And, secondly, his obvious inability to think before saying something stupid or to simply shut up when he does not have anything good to say is a problem. I won’t hold my breath waiting for baseball to address these issues.

Guillen’s lack of control is nothing compared to the lack displayed by Phillies starter Brett Myers. The young Philadelphia pitcher allegedly punched his wife in the face on Friday just outside of Fenway Park in front of multiple witnesses. Boston Police responded to a 911 call and found Myers’ wife, Kim Wickman, to have signs of abuse on the left side of her face. Myers was found nearby and was arrested and charged with domestic abuse. Myers was then bailed out by his wife but ordered not to have any contact with her unless at her suggesting. Myers at the time of this writing was still scheduled to make his Saturday start against the Red Sox. If only a man hitting his wife could summon the same media outrage that using bad language does, the world would be a better place.

On the lighter side of this week’s baseball news we were blessed by the return of several players to active duty. The return of Roger Clemens as a starter for the Houston Astros was the biggest story. ESPN was kind enough to broadcast the game so we could all get a glimpse of one of the greatest and most popular pitchers of all time. Clemens was not spectacular in his return but he was solid. His control obviously wasn’t what he would have liked, but he allowed just two runs in five innings and lately the Astros would kill for such quality. They did not have to kill though; they just forked over a prorated $22 million dollars.

We also witnessed the return of Albert Pujols to active duty this. ESPN was nice enough to show us Pujols’ first at-bat, which resulted in a long fly-ball. Joe Morgan accurately pointed out that Pujols’ form did not seem quite right. Pujols seemed to swing with his arms rather than put any torque on his newly recovered oblique muscles. Any doubts raised by his lack of hits on Thursday were erased though by his 4-for-4 performance with a home run on Friday night; so maybe it is only a matter of time before he finds his form again.

As if those were not enough, Thursday also featured the return of A.J. Burnett to active duty. Burnett looked effective and relaxed in his return. Burnett went six innings on just 91 pitches. He allowed just two runs on five hits and a walk with seven strikeouts. With time, he should build his endurance back up and be the fine addition the Blue Jays thought they signed in December.

Feedback can be sent to jonwilliams@sportsblurb.com.

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The Numbers Game written for Sportsblurb.com

posted by Jon Williams

The Cincinnati Reds were just 1.5 games out of the wild card position when they made the following trade with the Washington Nationals:

OF Austin Kearns

SS Felipe Lopez

RHP Ryan Wagner

For

RHP Gary Majewski

LHP Bill Bray

SS Royce Clayton

INF Brendan Harris

RHP Daryl Thompson

The first reaction of almost every baseball fan on the planet was to ask if Alfonso Soriano was missing from the list of players that the Nationals were sending over. I was flipping to ESPN2 between innings of the Red Sox/ Athletics game and I swear I thought I wasn’t seeing the whole trade on the bottom line. The Reds should have gotten a lot more for their starting right fielder and their starting shortstop. That they threw in a former top closer prospect in Ryan Wagner is just plain ridiculous. The problem is the Reds didn’t accurately read the market value for the players they traded. But as bad as this trade is rightfully considered by most it doesn’t really hurt the playoff chances of the Reds. Seriously, for what they sent to the Nationals they could have had Alfonso Soriano in my opinion. But despite their bad judgment the Reds may have accomplished their goal of improving and preparing for the playoffs.

Austin Kearns is easily replaced by either Ryan Freel or Chris Denorfia. Kearns is still just 26 years old and having his first healthy season in a decade but it doesn’t appear that his bat will ever again be considered the equal of Adam Dunn’s as so many projected years ago. But he was having a solid season for the Reds. Thus far Kearns has been hitting a respectable .272/.352/.489 and fielding his position well. The plan for now seems to be Denorfia in right and Freel continuing as the utility guy. Denorfia has been back and forth between Cincy and AAA Louisville which is never good for the numbers. Denorfia hits for a good average and knows how to get on base. He has a career line of .263 .364/.421in the majors through 2005 and a line of .286/.371/.432 in the minors. He’ll never match the power potential Kearns has displayed but his hustling scrappy style will probably go over well with Reds fans. If Denorfia gets 250 at-bats in the second half of the season I wouldn’t be surprised if he hit close to .300 with 8-10 homers and 8-10 stolen bases. The Reds think of Denorfia as a leadoff hitter and he could score a lot of runs in front of Dunn and Ken Griffey Jr.

Felipe Lopez has a superior bat to Royce Clayton but Clayton is a far more consistent defender. Clayton hasn’t been a total void with the bat this year and a small jump might be possible in the more hitter friendly GABP. But is the difference in defense worth the exchange of bats? Maybe. Lopez has a .959 FPCT, an RF of 3.98 and a ZR of .785 which compared to Clayton’s .970 FPCT, 4.37 RF and .829 ZR make him look pretty bad. Lopez has a hitting line of .268/.355/.394 and Clayton a line of .269/.315/.348. That isn’t a difference that’ll make you forget the defensive gap. Clayton will play everyday as long as he fields his position and doesn’t completely embarass himself at the plate. But my new favorite mid-season fantasy sleeper may put Clayton on the bench eventually. William Bergolla was one of the Reds top ten prospects in 2005 according to Baseball America. Go ahead and make your favorite joke about the Cincinnati farm system, I’ll wait... Done? Bergolla isn’t any thing amazing with the bat but he is an excellent fielder whose only real flaw in the field is an inability to stay healthy. His bat is probably only slightly better than Clayton’s at best but he makes up for it with vastly better speed. Bergolla led the Reds system three years in a row in stolen bases. He stole 52 bases in 2003 and was caught 18 times. The Reds have wanted to move him to shortstop in the past but his poor health got in the way. If the Brandon Phillips trade hadn’t worked out so well he’d probably be the second baseman right now. If you can stash him away for a buck or two you might find yourself in possession of a cheap source of stolen bases. Bergolla has a career minor league line of .289/.343/.377.

Ryan Wagner has been pretty terrible at AAA this year. There is the very real possibility that he isn’t yet recovered from shoulder surgery. If Wagner was the reliever the Reds were hoping they had two years back they may not have felt pressure to make a trade like this. Gary Majewski is probably an average major league reliever but he has a rubber arm and will take the ball everyday of the week if asked. Majewski will become a key set-up man for the new Reds closer Eddie Guardado. But the key acquisition for the Reds is Bill Bray. Bray was the 13th overall pick in the 2004 draft. He is a for real prospect. He throws a mid 90’s fastball and a low 80’s slider and can get outs effectively with either pitch. After signing he was sent to the Arizona Fall league where he pitched 16 innings and struck out 16 batters. Bray has been projected as a future major league closer and could potentially fill that role this year if Guardado’s injury problems prevent him from pitching effectively. By adding Bray, Majewski and Guardado the Reds bullpen is already leaps and bounds better than what they suffered through in the first half of the season.

In my opinion Wayne Krivsky is attempting to duplicate his success with Brandon Phillips by acquiring Brendan Harris. It isn’t a bad gamble to make. Harris hasn’t really been given the shot he probably deserved. When Harris was with the Cubs I heard him compared to Albert Pujols. Yeah, that’s ridiculous but Harris could still become a decent infielder with some pop in his bat. Picking up guys like Harris is exactly what a team with a thin farm system should do. Hell, they should make a collection of failed, stalled and ignored prospects in AAA. I don’t really expect he’ll play much more for the Reds than he did with the Nationals this year but 2007 is always a possibility. Rich Aurillia can’t hang around forever can he? Daryl Thompson is another shot in the dark. Thompson is a 20-year old pitching prospect that has drawn comparisons to Oil Can Boyd. While he has talent he is presently recovering from a shoulder injury. He also hasn’t advanced past A-ball which makes him hard to project.

The Reds are going to need all of these guys to work out as planned to have any hope of winning the public perception of this trade. That probably won’t happen. But if the Reds make the playoffs and players like Bray, Majewski and Denorfia play key roles then they might be forgiven.

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Treasure Hunting written for Sportsblurb.com

posted by Jon Williams

Have you ever been broke? Have you ever been so broke that you go searching through the pockets of clothing you haven’t worn in months for forgotten dollar bills? Ever tip over the sofa hoping some loose change might fall out. Ever hit the jackpot doing so? I’ve done all of the above at one time or another. When you desperately need to find a player on the waiver wire, when you pull out your 1993 Baseball America Prospect Guide you’re doing the fantasy equivalent of digging in the cushions. Hey, there’s no shame in it. Finding hidden gold is what treasure hunting is all about isn’t it? This is the nothing to lose version of treasure hunting. These guys are gold for 2007 but passing the canary test in 2006 will require you have patience and nothing to lose.

Rich Hill SP Cubs

Rich Hill has not been impressive in his major league stints thus far. Believe it or not this may be to his benefit. Young pitchers in Chicago tend to get hurt. Yeah, I’m blaming it on Dusty Baker. Here’s the Jon Williams Guarantee, Dusty Baker will not be manager of the Cubs in 2007. If he is I’ll eat Trot Nixon’s nasty old baseball cap. Jim Hendry has announced that Baker will finish the 2006 season. GMs don’t make announcements like that unless the manager is in trouble. Dusty Baker is in trouble. Dusty Baker ruined Kerry Wood and Mark Prior; he deserves to be in trouble. Here’s the advice Baker has for Rich Hill according to mlb.com:

"He just has to pretend he's in the Minor Leagues," Baker said. "Sometimes you have to trick yourself. Just tell yourself it's the same game. You've got better hitters, quality hitters, but it's basically the same."

Rich has been dominating in the minors for a couple of seasons now. Extremely dominate. He is 26 years old now so if he doesn’t dominate in the minors he gets released. But Hill hasn’t been just good enough to keep pitching, he’s been outstanding.

2006 AAA Iowa: 100IP/ 15GS/ 1.80era/ 1.03WHIP/ 1.94BB9/ 1.52HR9/ 12.74K9

2006 MLB CHC: 19.1IP/ 4GS/ 9.31era/ 1.97WHIP/ 6.46BB9/ 1.14HR9/ 7.99K9

He’s done this for two seasons now. His 135K are leading the Pacific Coast League. When Hill is in the majors for some reason he completely changes his attitude towards pitching. In the minors he dares guys to hit his best stuff. In the majors he becomes a nibbler trying to pitch on the edges of the plate. As soon as someone clues him in that it is okay to let it loose in the majors he’s going to have success.

Hill has an unhittable 12-to-6 curveball. That combined with a low 90's fastball that he's learned to control (he attributes it to greater mental focus, the coaches say he cleaned up his delivery - whatever, as long as he has, right?) His change-up is constantly improving. And he's a lefty, which guarantees the opportunity will be there. Like I said he's 26 so the time is now. The Cubs should give Hill the chance to finish the season in the majors. He has nothing left to prove in the minors and the Cubs stink and have nothing to lose. It may take him a few starts to find himself so be patient. I could make you a long list of starters that stunk in their first few outings in the majors.

Shin-SooChoo OF Indians

You can call him Big League Choo. Choo, whom the Indians acquired in the Ben Broussard trade, will start in right field against right-handers. Casey Blake will play first against right-handers. Choo doesn’t have amazing power but he seems to be developing adequate power. Adequate power with his ability to get on base, his good speed and very good base stealing ability should make him a very valuable fantasy player. If he’s available grab him. The Mariners only gave him 18 at-bats in the majors.

2006 AAA Tacoma: 375AB/ 70R/ 121H/ 21dbls/ 3tpls/ 13HR/ 48RBI/ 26SB/ 4CS/ .323/.393/.499

The only downside I can see is his lack of experience. The Indians are another team without much to lose. The team is hoping that Choo will allow them to move Grady Sizemore down a bit in the order. Sizemore owners will hate hearing that as it will likely cut into his stolen base totals. Jhonny Peralta owners can be happy that Mark Shapiro didn’t get his first choice for Broussard, SS Erick Aybar.

My bonus nugget for reading this far is Joe Inglett. The man has no real power or base stealing ability. He’s a destitute man’s version of Wade Boggs. He can hit for average and is pretty fair at getting on base. He has a minor league career line of .303/.379/.419.

2006 AA Akron: 64AB/ 20R/ 33H/ 9dbls/ 3HR/ 9RBI/ 7SB/ 3CS/ 11BB/ 4SO .516/.587/.767

2006 AAA Buffalo: 157AB/ 21R/ 47H/ 7dbls/ 2trpls/ 1HR/ 13RBI/ 3SB/ 2CS 13BB/ 24SO

.299/.358/.389

2006 MLB CLE: 46AB/ 8R/ 15H/ 2dbls/ 2trpls/ 1HR/ 6RBI/ 1SB/ 0CS/ 4BB/ 8SO .326/.380/.522

The Indians are looking for a spark and Inglett is providing it right now. The Indians see him as a future utility infielder but with Ronnie Belliard nursing his hamstring injury Inglett is getting an opportunity to prove he can handle full-time responsibility.

Last Week Revisited

Last week Mark looked at Stephen Drew and Jason Windsor. Jason Windsor blew his rotation opportunity by allowing 9 hits and 4 earned runs in just 2 innings. Windsor was sent back to the minors and replaced on the roster by LHP Randy Keisler. Windsor still has a future but the A’s are in a dog fight for the AL West and they can’t afford to develop pitchers right now.

Stephen Drew is probably making Craig Counsel the Arizona version of Wally Pip. Thus far Drew is hitting .302/.348/.512 in 43 at-bats. If you didn’t pick him up it’s too late now.

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Burning Up the Bases written for Sportsblurb.com

posted by Jon Williams

Burning Up the Bases

By Jon Williams

08/07/06

Every fantasy baseball owner has a need for speed. Baseball’s base stealers have always been a precious commodity, and they have grown even more precious with the proliferation of the so-called Moneyball mindset. I do think we’re about to see a return to a more exciting brand of baseball. The vast majority of baseball teams – especially the bad ones – seem to annually attempt to mimic the characteristics of the best teams. This year, one of the better teams is without a doubt the New York Mets. And the Mets, as you may know or can guess by my clever lead in, use the stolen base as a key part of their offense.

What you as a fantasy owner must do is spot the stolen base talent being underutilized by teams that might use a similar style of offense in 2007. This week, I’m going to give you the key players on the three teams I can see giving the stolen base a bigger part in their game plans next year. Am I a great guy or what?

A little less running into walls and a little more running on the basepaths would do wonders for Aaron Rowand's fantasy owners...

Philadelphia Phillies

1) Aaron Rowand

2) Michael Bourne

3) Shane Victorino

He has not shown it this season, but Aaron Rowand can steal bases. He is not a blazing fast, Carl Crawford-type, but he has displayed the ability to take bases at a good percentage. The Phillies are almost guaranteed to have a new manager in 2007, and whoever is running the show next year would be wise to use some of the speed he will have on his roster, as well as utilize the base-stealing ability of almost everyone on the projected 2007 Major League roster. If that turns out to indeed be the case, Rowand could easily be a 20/20 guy in 2007.

Michael Bourn is the next home grown Philadelphia star. At the University of Houston, Bourn honed his ability to hit for average, get on base, and steal bases. As the 2003 fourth round pick of the Phillies little has changed. With Bobby Abreu traded to the Yankees, and Pat Burrell rumored to be following him in the off-season, the opportunity will be there for Bourn to claim a spot in the outfield in 2007. Bourn has a batting line of .288/.388/.396 in the minors and would be a very dynamic #2 hitter behind star shortstop Jimmy Rollins and might even push Rollins to the #2 spot. If Bourn makes the team and does what he has shown the ability to do, the Phillies will be a very exciting team to watch.

He may not be as flashy as Michael Bourn, but Shane Victorino has probably already earned a spot on the 2007 major league roster of the Phillies. His .310/.377/.534 showing at Triple-A Scranton has already earned him a call-up to fill the spot vacated by Bobby Abreu. He’s off to a respectable .267/.330/.424 start in 191 Major League at-bats this season. He has only stolen two bases without being caught but could easily steal 20 bases if given the opportunity.

Kansas City Royals

1) Alex Gordon

2) Joey Gathright

3) Esteban German

The Kansas City Royals have a much brighter future than most believe. Their minor league system may not be deep at the moment but they have a few guys that project as the heart of the order for the next decade. Next year, the fantasy baseball magazines will tell you all you need to know about Billy Butler, Ryan Shealy, and Justin Huber. But the star of the Kansas City system by far will be third baseman Alex Gordon. The former Nebraska star has been compared to Chipper Jones with his beautiful swing and his projecting to hit for both power and average. Gordon already shows solid plate discipline, and many believe he should be in the Majors already. As of this writing, he is at Double-A Wichita, batting .316/.416/.559 with 20 home runs in just 383 at-bats. I know what you’re wondering, though – can he steal bases? He presently has 20 stolen bases and has been caught just three times. Gordon is the infield version of Carlos Beltran – yes, he is really that good.

Joey Gathright is not a great hitter; he can, however, use his speed and slap-hitting ability to hit for a respectable average, as he has shown he can do in the minors. He’s hit .316 in over 1,200 minor league at-bats with a .390 on-base percentage. Most importantly, the man is blazing fast. He has stolen 165 bases and been caught stealing 50 times in his Minor League career. That’s just over 40 stolen bases for every season spent in the minors, and he has made spent some time in the Majors just wasting away on the bench or he might have stolen even more.

I really hope that the Royals replace manager Bob Boone, as he has made one of the best performers on his team almost irrelevant. This season, 26-year-old Esteban German has batted .321/.430/.378, but cannot seem to get at-bats ahead of 36-year-old Mark Grudzielanek (.286/.325/.394 in 388 at-bats). A team like the Royals needs to give at-bats to the players that can play a part in the future of the team, rather than ancient mediocrities that will be here on the roster for one season at the most. German has the speed and the know-how to steal 30 to 40 bases. All he needs is an opportunity.

Pittsburgh Pirates

1) Chris Duffy

2) Nate McLouth

3) Jason Bay

Chris Duffy was supposed to be the starting center fielder for the Pirates in 2006. He lost the opportunity by hitting just .230/.288/.344 in 61 spring training at-bats. Duffy did not respond well to the May demotion and refused the assignment for almost a month. He did finally report and got to work on the things lacking in his game. At Triple-A Indianapolis, Duffy has been pretty impressive in 116 at-bats with a .349/.415/.509 batting line with 13 stolen bases and he has been caught just three times. Duffy was recalled after the Craig Wilson trade and has not done much yet, but the Pirates seem to have more faith this time around. Duffy has a career minor league line of .299/.354/.415; if he could come close to that in the Majors, 25-30 stolen bases a season is a distinct possibility.

Nate McLouth is similar to Duffy, but has better speed, slightly better power, and is two years younger at just 24-years-old. McLouth has spent the entire 2006 season in the Majors and should be in line for the starting right field job in 2007 when Jeromy Burnitz finally departs. For the season, McLouth is batting just .228/.292/.360 in a sporadic 250 at-bats as an occasional starter and defensive replacement. McLouth still has the spark that won him most exciting player votes in the minors. In a full season of at-bats, McLouth could steal 40 bases by managing just a league average on-base percentage.

He will not come cheap but Jason Bay is a great base stealer. In the Majors, Bay has attempted just 36 steals and been caught just eight times. In the Minors, Bay was a 30-40 steal guy. That ability is still there; it just needs to be tapped. By increasing his stolen base attempts, Bay could become the most valuable fantasy outfielder in almost any style league. For the Pirates, something as simple as a change in managerial philosophy could change them from one of the more boring offensive teams in the league to one of the most exciting. The Pirates want desperately to be the Oakland Athletics but they just don’t have the personnel and do not seem to grasp how to acquire it. I’m sure Billy Beane wouldn’t share this with the Pirates but I will – the secret of Moneyball was not acquiring on-base specialists; it was making the best use of the players available to you. The Pirates have speedy defensive slap hitters; design the offense around them and it might actually work for both the Pirates and fantasy owners everywhere.

Feedback can be sent to jonwilliams@sportsblurb.com.

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No License Is Required to Run a Fantasy League

posted by Jon Williams
By ALAN SCHWARZ
Published: August 9, 2006

Major League Baseball Advanced Media, the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, had a major setback yesterday in its attempt to regulate the growing fantasy baseball industry when a federal judge ruled that companies do not need licenses to operate such leagues.

A St. Louis company that runs fantasy leagues, CBC Distribution and Marketing Inc., had sued Major League Baseball Advanced Media, saying that the players’ names and performance statistics were in the public domain.

Four weeks before the trial was set to begin, United States District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler upheld CBC’s argument in a 49-page summary judgment. She rejected baseball’s claim that the use of the players’ names in commercial fantasy leagues violated their rights of publicity. She also ruled that even if CBC’s repetition of purely factual information had violated those rights, it was was trumped by the United States Constitution.

“The players’ right of publicity,” she wrote, “must give way to CBC’s First Amendment right to freedom of expression.”

According to the Fantasy Sports Trade Association, more than 15 million people spend about $1.5 billion annually to play fantasy sports — games in which fans draft and run their own teams of real-life players. Virtually all of them use an outside service like CBC to keep track of rosters, players’ statistics, trades and more.

Major League Baseball Advanced Media, in addition to owning the electronic rights to team logos and video clips, bought the Internet and wireless rights to the players’ images and names from the Major League Baseball Players Association in January 2005 for $50 million. It licenses large content packages to companies like Yahoo and CBS Sportsline for deals worth approximately $2 million apiece and had sought to regulate the use of players’ names and personas by the hundreds of smaller operations like CBC that use only names and statistics.

“Using basic factual information — as distinguished from using a player’s name to endorse a product — does not violate the right of publicity,” said Rudy Telscher, a lawyer representing CBC. “This was just baseball trying — and I don’t blame them — to seize this growing area and make money on it.”

Officials from Major League Baseball Advanced Media could not be reached yesterday for comment on whether the company would appeal to the Eighth Circuit Court, a process that would take about another year. Jim Gallagher, a baseball spokesman, told The Associated Press, “We need to talk to our partners, the Major League Baseball Players Association, before we have anything more to say.”

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This Week In Fantasy Sports (Football and Baseball)

posted by Jon Williams
Anthony Reyes Baseball Card

http://www.fanball.com/buzz/article.cfm?id=6652

John Turvey of Fanball.com discusses the joys and pains of preparing for Fantasy Football Season. Then John explores what happens when you give your target audience an early chance to explore your findings.

They flipped to the appropriate page, found my team (seventh pick in a 10-team draft) and immediately called into question my selection of Domanick Davis in round two (14th overall).

They pointed out that his line blows—which is true for
pass-blocking, I countered, but they effectively employ the same zone-blocking scheme Gary Kubiak used in Denver and have produced solid numbers for Dom in the past.

They noted that he's been nicked up throughout his career—again, a valid concern, but one I believe can be insured by grabbing his handcuff (like Davis owners did with Jonathan Wells did last year).

http://www.fanball.com/buzz/article.cfm?id=6629

Court E. Mann of Fantasy Football Weekly discusses the football annuals and the disappearance of the Fantasy Football Bust.


At Fanball, we publish three preseason magazines under our Fantasy Football Weekly moniker in

June, July, and August. In both the June Annual and the August Draft Issue, we devote an entire feature to 15 reliable fantasy starters from the previous season that we slap the Bust label on. In the July Just Cheat Sheets issue, each of our editors is forced to choose one prominent name at each position as their Bust, and that player must be ranked in the top 15 at that position.

http://www.fanball.com/buzz/article.cfm?id=6615

Jay Powell shares his semi-unique draft strategies. I think he may be on to something.

In the third round, I added wide receiver Roy Williams, whom I expect to thrive in the offense that Mike Martz is installing in Motown. At the time I picked Williams, the list of available running backs included Warrick Dunn, Reuben Droughns, and Carnell Williams. Fans of the "Do the Opposite" approach should also know that Chargers tight end Antonio Gates was also available.

http://www.fanball.com/fb/article.cfm/ID.6664

The guys at Fanball.com have been busy with team previews. Each one includes Notable Offseason Moves, Position Battles and Keep an Eye On blurbs. Check them out starting with this one on the Kansas City Chiefs.

Griffin has more name value, but Dee Brown appears to have the inside track to earning the No. 2 spot on the depth chart should Holmes retire. Brown has impressed the coaches during the offseason workouts and will challenge Griffin for the role during training camp. The Chiefs signed Kyle Turley to compete with Jordan Black for the starting right tackle job. Turley has battled back problems over the last few seasons. He also allegedly threatened to kill former Rams head coach Mike Martz, so Edwards might want to consider entering the witness protection program if he has to cut Turley this summer.

http://www.fantasybaseballcafe.com/tips.php

http://www.fantasybaseballcafe.com/2006/tips_projecting_wins.php

Bob Hoyng tries his hand at creating a projection system for WHIP. I haven’t played with it yet but he could have something useful here.

My main thought here (looking at this situation from a fantasy baseball manager’s point of view) was to use this information to find pitchers whose bad luck over the last few years had deflated their value to the point where they were bargains. To do this I would need one formula to project ERA, and another formula to project WHIP. I could then take a pitcher’s 3 year averages in the component numbers (BB, K, HR and IP) and find the guys that showed a large variance between actual, and projected ERA/WHIP both, to identify the over and undervalued pitchers.

Bob then goes on to predicting wins for pitchers. I’ve actually tried this and it isn’t easy. Bob has a grasp on the concept, give it a look and decide if it works for you.

Projecting the number of games a team is going to win during the course of the upcoming year is definitely not to the point that it’s an exact science. We can try to use tools such as the expected lineup’s Runs Created/27 outs or other such methods to project the runs the team will score. We can look at what type of era we expect the team to put up as a whole as well, and apply the Pythagorean Expectation formula to try and estimate the team’s wins. It’s kind of like predicting the weather - it may not be 100% but it’s the best that we’ve got.

My interest in this article is in explaining how we can extend this approach to predicting pitchers. And more importantly to try and project the wins for ALL pitchers - not just starting pitchers. In order to determine the winning percentage for a team from the Pythagorean Expectation formula we need two numbers - runs scored and runs against. In projecting the wins for pitchers we need one extra number - the number of opportunities (decisions) that we expect the pitcher to receive. While there can certainly be progress made from the point that this article will take us, the general approach that I will lay out here is a good start to estimating the number of decisions any pitcher will receive. Before we get into the detailed examination of predicting opportunities though, let’s take a look at the first two numbers - runs scored and runs agains

http://www.fantasybaseballcafe.com/sleepers.php

Adam Lewis has Fantasy Baseball Cafe’s Sleeper of the Week. He believes this week’s sleeper could very well end the year in a closer role. Names have been redacted for entertainment purposes.

At the moment, ****** is the ****** closer, but look for ****** to take it from him in the second half. It has been said that ****** gets the ugliest saves of any closer. ****** never seems to have a 1-2-3 inning, nor does he have that ‘out’ pitch closers need. ****** is also now suffering from elbow tendonitis, which sometimes is hard to shake. With ****** being injured, and journeymen and castoffs in the bullpen, look for ****** to get his fair share of opportunities. The ****** have the worst bullpen in the league, so ****** will get his chances to rise above. For now, keep an eye on the closing situation and keep your eyes on this rising 22 year old hurler.

http://sports.yahoo.com/mlb/news;_ylt=AlIGHpWY0vmOeCiXC.dV1KkRvLYF?slug=jp-mauer062606&prov=yhoo&type=lgns

Jeff Passan tells us why it’s good to be Joe Mauer.

Though being good might give Mauer the utmost pleasure. Because it proves, once and for all, that the Twins weren't erring solely on the side of spendthrifts when they chose Mauer with the first pick ahead of Mark Prior, and that Mauer wasn't crazy for leaving behind a scholarship to play quarterback at Florida State to sign with the Twins.

http://fantasysports.yahoo.com/analysis/news?slug=be-noise_062206&prov=yhoo&type=lgns&league=fantasy/nfl

Brad Evans explains why its all about the money in the NFL and gives us a few names we can count on to provide a performance worth major ducats.

For fantasy football aficionados, knowing who's playing for a big payday is vital info. For example, last year Ladanian Tomlinson was a unanimous No. 1 pick for many owners. However, LT drafters were kicking themselves by season's end for not picking Shaun Alexander. The popular second fiddle bulldozed his way to the top of the rankings, totaling a staggering 27 rushing touchdowns. His record-breaking campaign and consistency – he scored at least once in 14 of 16 games and had 11 100-yard rushing performances – were a cornerstone on many championship rosters. Why did Alexander reach unprecedented heights? He was looking to cash in.

http://rotoworld.com/content/story.asp?sport=MLB&storyid=22869

Aaron Gleeman gives us the scoop on a trade as its about to happen and some tidbits from around baseball.

Speaking of rumors, things appear to be heating up on the Miguel Tejada front. The Washington Post reported Tuesday that Tejada may have been linked to Jason Grimsley’s now-infamous affidavit. Grimsley and Tejada played together for parts of two seasons in Baltimore, so the media attention on the story is sure to explode within the next couple days.

Meanwhile, the newspaper also quoted sources within the Orioles organization as saying that the team may be “ready to deal their starting shortstop before the July 31 trade deadline.” Team officials indicated last week that they were “unlikely” to deal Tejada, but even then said they’d listen to offers.

http://www.baseballnotebook.com/essay.asp?esource=e_062106.asp&topt=Trading%20-%20The%20Art%20of%20Selling%20Low

David Luciani of Baseball Notebook expounds on the Art of Selling Low. Its interesting stuff, as always the guys at Baseball Notebook go a little bit against the grain to get at the truth of things.

Everyone knows the stock trading concept that dictates that we should "buy low, sell high." It makes sense and there's no need to prove here that the trader who successfully does this, in stocks or in fantasy baseball, will be successful. When fantasy baseball was relatively new, or at least spreading in popularity around North America, some of the early official Rotisserie materials rightly advocated the concept of "trade them while they're hot and get them while they're not." The idea which helped many a fantasy owner in the mid 1980s and even into the early 1990s was that certain players have a track record and if they start slow, they can easily be acquired. Conversely, many players are notoriously slow starters and the intelligent fantasy GM can go out and pick them up relatively cheap.

http://baseballanalysts.com/archives/2006/06/war_stories.php

Bob Klapisch explains why journalists and teams just can’t get along any longer. With the Jay Mariotti and Ozzie Guillen story raging maybe Bob can come up with a solution better than sensitivity training. While you’re at it check out my Sportsblurb.com article on that very topic.

Younger reporters who sometimes complain that today's stars, like Derek Jeter and Carlos Beltran, have nothing interesting to say, obviously don't know what it's like when the players declare war on the press.

Still, the newcomers have a point about the thick wall of clichés. Where did all this new millennium caution come from? I asked Jeter that very question recently, wondering why he affects that Dawn of the Dead expression whenever the camera goes on. His answer was surprisingly candid.

"It's you guys," Jeter said, nodding at a group of reporters standing around the clubhouse. "Because any time you do something you guys write about it, absolutely anything. You can't really be as loose as you want to be."

http://fantasyfootball.rotoworld.com/content/story.asp?sport=NFL&storyid=22866

Gregg Rosenthal examines the NFL East and North and declares that the sleeping Lions are being roused by Mike Martz and his new offense.

Jon Kitna has reportedly opened up a big lead in the battle to be the team’s starting quarterback. Dan Orlovsky may be passing Josh McCown to be the backup. … The running back depth chart is odd after Kevin Jones. Arlen Harris is reportedly second, ahead of mainstays Shawn Bryson and Artose Pinner. I try not to get carried away with minicamp depth charts, if they even exist. Look for Bryson and rookie Brian Calhoun to have roles behind Kevin Jones once the season starts. For now, Jones owners may want to wait to handcuff him. Martz wants Jones to play on third downs and near the goal line, which could make him a great RB2.

http://longgandhi.com/061706.html

Long Gandhi looks at the future of the Toronto Blue Jays rotation.

Anyway, I thought I had written about a month ago that I didn't think Janssen would be long for the Blue Jay rotation because he didn't fool hitters with his stuff. More precisely, that hitters didn't swing and miss. He got strikes primarily by getting fouls and calls. That works in the short term, but eventually hitters will get his timing and start hitting him... hard. Just looking at his last two outings, against the Orioles and Marlins of all teams, that appears to be happening now. Put another way, he's given up at least 4 earned runs in five of eleven starts. Take out his two starts against the Angels, which came fairly early in his major league tenure, and his ERA is 6.24 and WHIP is 1.567. How's his style gonna play against the division rival Yankees and Red Sox against whom he's yet to face? My guess is not well. Sure, his K/BB rate is nice, but so was Josh Towers and we see how well that has turned out. Casey Janssen's time in the Blue Jay rotation will be coming to a close very soon.

http://www.rototimes.com/index.php?sport=bsball&type=gordon&name=F20060626135043

Jeff Gordon goes deep into This Week In Baseball.

Russ Ortiz, SP, Orioles: ... Baltimore hopes to turn Ortiz around after his washout in Arizona. As a D'Back, Ortiz was 5-11 with a 6.89 ERA in 2005 and 0-5 with a 7.54 ERA this season. It doesn't get much worse than that.

But he had a fruitful working relationship with Leo Mazzone in Atlanta, so the O's figure this was worth a shot. "I think Leo is always up for a challenge," Baltimore manager Sam Perlozzo said. "He's usually up for getting someone back on track. It seems like his track record is he's able to do that."

http://www.sportsblurb.com/baseball/stock.asp

My article for Sportsblurb.com.

Guillen might have a point if Mariotti was a beat writer, but he is not. Mariotti is a columnist that has the job we all wish we did. He goes to the NBA finals and flies from there to the next big event and from there to the next. Mariotti, in a rather wussy fashion, claims that the Chicago White Sox clubhouse is too dangerous a place for him to risk showing up. Of course, I am sure if reporters were being beat up after games we would have heard about it by now.

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EA Sports Head Coach - the Commercial

posted by Jon Williams
EA Head Coach Game


Anyone out there play video games? I'm interested in this one. Thanks to Joe Bryant of FantasyFootballGuys for pointing out the link in his free newsletter.

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A Fantasy Baseball Update

posted by Jon Williams
Justin Huber


Casey Kotchman who has been putting a hurting on some fantasy teams this year revealed last night that he's been dealing with the effects of mononucleosis for the last seven months. The disease can sap your strength and I guess thats what Casey wants us to blame for his horrible stats thus far. I'm not actually buying it but if it helps you deal him to a rebuilding team its good information.

Richie Sexson is another first baseman off to an awful start. I have no doubt Sexson will come around but it'll have to wait until he recovers from the bruised right heel and slight ankle sprain he suffered in Wednesday's game. He shouldn't miss too much time with the problem but he'll be sitting on the bench and creating a hole in your lineup for a few days, which might be a welcome change from his daily ofers.

The world of closers is shifting once again. The latest? Eddie Guardado has been at least temporarily removed from his closer position. Mike Hargrove has promised a closer by committee situation but look for J.J. Putz to get the bulk of the chances. Rafael Soriano is also likely to win a few. Soriano is probably the better long term bet based purely on talent but if Putz continues to pitch well in the closer role he might just hold it.

Royals Designated Hitter Mike Sweeney is hitting the disabled list with a bulging disk in his back. Supposedly it isn't the same disk that ruined last season (as if that mattered). He could be gone a while, I'm guessing at least six weeks but its hard to tell with Sweeney. The good news for fantasy owners and Royals fans alike is the call up of Justin Huber. Huber will be just the first in a trio of call-ups that should dramatically change the fortunes of the Royals despite the inept managing of Allard Baird. Huber is pretty similar to a younger and healthy Mike Sweeney. You should pick him up if you have a place for him or if you just lost Sweeney.

The Brewers have lost starter Tomo Ohka for at least a month and possibly the season with a tear in his rotator cuff. The Brew Crew is expected to call up Dana Eveland who has been dominating AAA. He has a .75 era in six starts. Eveland seems ready and probably should have made the team out of spring training but hey, things happen. If Eveland gets the call you want him.

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The Official 2006 All Super Fantasy Sleeper Team

posted by Jon Williams
Nightmare Sleepers


Just so we're all on the same page this is my super sleeper team for 2006. I define a sleeper as a player that for various reasons will cost signicantly less or be drafted much later than their projected value would seem to suggest. I would not suggest buying this entire team although I think anyone of these players will return much more value than you'll pay.

C - Miguel Oliva Marlins
C - Gerald Laird Rangers
1B - Jason Stokes Marlins
3B - Terry Tiffee Twins
CR - Adrian Gonzalez Padres
2B - Bobby Hill Padres
SS - J.J. Hardy Brewers
MI - Alberto Callaspo Diamondbacks
OF - Nathan McLouth Pirates
OF - John Rodriguez Cardinals
OF - Rondell White Twins
OF - Victor Diaz Mets
OF - Corey Hart Brewers
Utl - Kaz Matsui Mets
SP - Adam Wainwright Cardinals
SP - Rich Hill Cubs
SP - Scott Olson Marlins
SP - Dustin Nippert Diamondbacks
SP - Scott Baker Twins
SP - Edwin Jackson Devil Rays
SP - Shawn Estes Padres
RP - Shinji Mori Devil Rays
RP - Todd Coffey Reds
RP - Travis Bowyer Marlins

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Preparing for the 2006 Fantasy Season (Part Three) - Building a Quality Farm System

posted by Jon Williams
Not every fantasy league utilizes a farm system but I do believe that any player in a keeper league will benefit from reading this article. This article will give you my views on how to build a fantasy farm system and the benefits of doing it in various ways. You might be surprised how the hype a player receives can effect a players value in his league regardless of his actual performance. A quality farm system can either provide you with the players necessary to create a fantasy league dynasty or give you the bait to annually trade for the pieces that will shoot you up the standings. READ ALL OF THE ARTICLE BELOW

Cameron Maybin
Cameron Maybin has the potential to be not just the best prospect on the Tigers but entering the 2007 season he may be the best prospect in the American League assuming that players like Delmon Young, Brandon Wood and Alex Gordon graduate to their respective major league teams.

Building A Quality Fantasy Baseball Farm System

When it comes to minor leaguers fantasy league owners often fall into one of two camps. In Camp One we have the owner obsessed with
rookies and young players. This owner is usually so determined to own his favorite ROY candidates and top prospects that he'll often sacrifice winning. He does this by paying far too much for young and inexperienced players in the auction and by refusing to part with his favorite players even when that player might buy him a championship. I have absolutely no problems with this type of player they are often among the most knowledgeable baseball fans in your leagues. The owners in Camp Two are often the polar opposite. These guys will almost never roster a rookie or inexperienced player. When they are forced to make picks for their farm system they often do so with Baseball America's Top 100 prospects issue open in fron t of them. They may even cross off selected players directly on the pages.They pay little attention to their farm systems and will often part with their farm system picks and whatever minor leaguers they happen to roster with little regard as to their value. I have no problem with these owners either. This type of owner often finishes in the money and usually walk away from the auction with the best teams. I don't think I have to tell you that the best owners in fantasy leagues are in neither camp.


How Does a Strong Fantasy Farm System Help?


A strong farm system will help you win. If built correctly your farm system will provide your team with a steady source of emerging fantasy baseball stars and a constant supply of cheap players that can be moved in trades for expensive players or players with a more certain value. In a tough keeper league a strong farm system can be the difference between finishing in the money and actually winning it. We've all been (or we all hope to be) in that situation wherein we can taste a championship and all we need is a few more steals or saves. The problem is every player on your active roster with enough value to bring a closer or stolen base artist is also essential to your championship drive. Its that Delmon Young, BJ Upton or Felix Hernandez that will bring you the player you so desperately need. Or maybe those first three guys are too valuable to your roster of keepers next year maybe you can combine a lesser player on your active roster with a minor leaguer like Brian Anderson or Dustin Pedroia. Then imagine after the season when you're trying to put together a group of keepers that will allow you to compete. Maybe some owner in your league doesn't believe in the value of Jason Giambi or fears a steroid suspension. You could be all over that if you have depth in your farm system. Would Jason Bartlett and Ian Kinsler make your final cut of keepers? Maybe you can trade your extra depth to improve even further. You might not believe how easy it is to sell another owner on a $5 minor leaguer due to start at shortstop who might steal twenty bases. A strong farm system can make your already strong roster unstoppable.


The First Step is to Know the Rules of Your League


The rules in every league are different. In some leagues minor leaguers are all $10. In other leagues they may be $5. Still other leagues may use tiers with a first round pick costing $10 a second round player $5 and a third round player just $3. Before you can come up with the best strategy for your league you have to know the rules inside and out. How many minor leaguers can you have on your roster? As many as you like? What are the rules about activating minor leaguers? Do you have to activate a minor leaguer as soon as he's activated by his major league team? Can you hold him in your farm system the entire season without starting the clock on him? Some leagues let you carry an active minor leaguer for the whole season for free but make you declare him as one of your keepers if he makes the 25-man roster on opening day. Another rule to look into is which players qualify to be drafted. Can you pick a college player or a player from Japan or high school? Is anyone in the minor leagues eligible or must they still qualify as rookies? Can you activate a player from the minors as a shortstop even if they've previously played twenty games in the majors as a DH? If you can tailor your draft picks to fit your unique league rules you'll have an even greater chance of success.


Selecting the Right Players



When selecting your players in addittion to having a complete knowledge of your league rules there are several decisions and evaluations you must make:

  • How long can you give any given player to develop? Every player is different. Some players shoot through the minors in less than a season and need never return. Another player might shoot through the minors and then struggle to stay in the majors. Still other players may take several years to advance to the major leagues. Your league rules may dictate how long you can give a player to rise to the majors. You also need to consider the state of your team and your keepable players. If you have a strong group of keepers and plenty of money to spend in the draft you might be able to wait on a few longer term minor leaguers. On the other hand you might have few keepers or little money to spend in that case you might want to draft guys that are likely to appear in the majors very soon. A player that is close to the majors is very valuable trade bait but can also give your team a mid-season shot in the arm.
  • What does your team need to compete this year? Do you have strong pitching keeps but few batters? If so you may want to grab hitters that are close to the majors. A strong farm system can help you fill needs as the season progresses. Imagine if you needed a hitter last year and had Ryan Howard or Jeff Francouer in your farm system. You could've added them to your team or traded one or both of them for Pujols in the last year of his contract or an expensive but effective Todd Helton, or both. Did you need a closer? Maybe you had Bobby Jenks or Derrek Turnbow in your system. Steals? Wily Tavares could have helped. Starters? Chien-Ming Wang or Chris Capuano might have helped. I guarantee you in any given season a minor leaguer comes up that can help your team with whatever you might need to compete. Maybe you have a solid roster and just want players that will be worth a bunch in a trade. Maybe you're rebuilding this year, you might want to consider stock-piling picks if your league allows you to keep as many minor leaguers as you wish.
  • What type of player does your league over value? Every league over values some type of player. It might be young players. It could be closers. It could be older veterans. I've even been in leagues where starting pitching was dramatically over valued. Picking the type of player your league is likely to over value could benefit you in more ways than one. You might have a far cheaper than usual version of that type of player or you might have some very desirable trade bait. Either way you win if you can add over valued players.
  • What positions are weak in your league or in the majors in general? If there are no third basemen in your auction perhaps you should draft a third baseman close to the majors. Rather than pay top dollar for a Kevin Youkilis or Troy Glaus draft Alex Gordon or Andy Marte. If you think stolen bases will be hard to come by in your NL-only league perhaps its time to draft Marcus Saunders. The catching in the NL looks pretty pathetic this year it might be time to grab George Kottaras or Neil Walker.

How to Find the Right Players Before Everyone Else


First you need to decide how much time and money you're willing to invest in this. If you're in multiple high stakes leagues paying for subscriptions to great sites like Scout.com and Baseballamerica.com may be more than worth it. Neither site is that expensive when you consider just how much information you get access to on a daily basis. Scout.com is a great site. They have a site for every team in every major sport run by guys who do nothing but follow that team and evaluate its prospects. In addittion they provide scouting reports on college and high school players. Scout.com is a little more expensive but you also have the option of subscribing for a month at a time for about $8. A month might be enough time to get a glimpse at all the major league sites and pick out some very good players. If you can afford it every fan of baseball should subscribe to Baseball America. Just in case you don't know Baseball America is the only real magazine that covers exclusively baseball year round. They report on every aspect of the sport but they have a heavy emphasis on the minors and amatuer competitions which is exactly what you want to know about. It costs about $60 for a year long web-only subscription. It is worth it but I also understand those who don't want to pay that much to study up for their fantasy leagues. Getting both sites would probably cost you $140 a year but worth every penny. Don't ignore these sites because of the cost as both also provide the occassional free article that are always worth reading.

Being the great guy that I am I will also provide a far cheaper alternative plan. While signing up for the two sites above will get you very very far if you're willing to work harder I can save you a lot of dough and get you a similar quality of information. The high stakes guys with lots of time may want to combine both plans which is the way I wish everyone could do it but it just isn't realistic for a lot of us.

Step One - Add the following sites to your bookmarks or favorites and check them everyday year round:

  • www.minorleagueball.com - John Sickels runs this site and he knows the minor leagues as well as anyone. The people that comment on his various articles also tend to know their stuff and provide lots of relevant information.
  • www.warmoctobernights.com - This blog run by Matt Jacovina provides the same sort of top ten prospect reports that Baseball America and other sites offer but its all free. Hell, there aren't even any ads to distract or annoy you. He truly knows his stuff and will often hip you to prospects that others are sleeping on.
  • www.baseballanalysts.com - This site is similar to Baseball Prospectus (another great site worth paying to read) but without the air of superiority that can sometimes grate on the nerves. They provide regular articles on baseball, sabermetrics and prospects. They acknowledge the fantasy crowd as some of their most frequent fans and provide nice content in that context.
  • www.rotojunkie.com - This site is awesome for several reasons. Anyone who plays fantasy should be checking into their forums on a daily basis as they have some of the smartest players and many acknowledged experts posting their thoughts on various players, strategy and baseball news. To top it all off Jason Collette is the site's minor league authority and provides many articles on players and teams that will help you immensely in preparing for your fantasy drafts.
Between all these sites you aren't likely to miss much that happens in the world of prospects. I do suggest you spend a little money. Invest in the Baseball America Prospect Book. This book provides all the top tens that you'll find on the site plus the next twenty prospects for each team. The book is available from just about every bookseller for about $20 and if you look real hard to sites like amazon.com you can find some really good deals. But don't stop here. If you really want to be the best you need to do some work on your own. When you find prospects that sound interesting on various sites go to www.thebaseballcube.com and look at their complete stats yourself. Everyone has their favorite criterion for judging the future of prospects. If you do the work I've assigned you you'll develop a method that works for you in no time (I'll provide you with my own special method in a future article - I've gotta keep you coming back for more).

Peace.

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Spring Training Thus Far - Player Notes

posted by Jon Williams
Josh Beckett - Red Sox fans had better hope that Curt Schilling doesn't irritate Josh Beckett right out of Boston. Schilling seems to think of himself as a mentor for Josh Beckett. Beckett seemed to take it well but a season of it might start to get on his nerves. We know for a fact that Randy Johnson couldn't take much of Curt's constant blather.

Curt Schilling - If nothing else Red Sox fans can be grateful that Schilling feels ready for the season. In fact he claims he is no longer rehabbing but instead doing normal conditioning. "I'm ready to be good again", he said.

Francisco Liriano - Liriano, who is in competition with Scott Baker for the Twins' fifth starter job may hurt his chances if he competes in the World Baseball Classic as he plans (Dominican Republic). A less than stellar showing in the showcase could send him back to AAA or at least the bullpen. On the other hand a great showing in the classic could cement the job for him. Either way no one should underestimate the ability of Scott Baker. Baker was considered the better prospect before Liriano's rocket through the minors.

Kaz Matsui - The Mets gave Matsui's corner locker location to veteran Bret Boone. The chances of Boone beating out Matsui should be slim but its pretty obvious who the Mets want to have the job. I happen to think that Matsui if healthy will show us something this season of course the Mets have to give him the opportunity first.

Scott Olsen - The young Marlin lefty who missed the end of last season with elbow inflammation is feeling fine now. He was feeling fine after throwing all his pitches off a mound on Tuesday.

Dallas McPherson - McPherson seems to have dropped off the planet due to his injury plagued 2005 season. He seems to have lost any chance at the full time third base job to Chone Figgins. Instead McPherson will get some time at first and designated hitter. Don't forget about him. When Garrett Anderson lands on the DL you'll be glad to have McPherson stashed away in reserve.

Michael Megrew - Megrew was a selection in this winter's Rule V draft. Megrew had Tommy John Surgery in 2004. He feels 100% healthy and now feels as if he just needs to get his velocity back. Megrew could turn into something but he'll need to successfully stay on the major league roster the entire season, on the Marlins that might just be possible.

Josh Willingham - Josh will get lots of on the job training this spring. The Marlins want him to be an acceptable catcher so he can play at least a few games behind the plate as well as in left and at first. Even if he doesn't catch he'll be worthwhile getting the majority of his at-bats from left field.

Kendry Morales - Manager Mike Scioscia believes it would be a stretch to see Morales break camp with the big league team. Scioscia believes Morales has an explosive bat with 30-homer potential, but has things he still needs to work on before he can hit major league pitching. He's probably right but I don't think Kendry is far from major league success. Even Scioscia believes its mostly about gaining experience.

Jim Thome - Thome is another vet coming off serious injury problems last season who is now claiming to be just fine. back injuries are tricky. You never know when they'll creep back into your life. Big Jim Thome will probably be okay this year but don't pay for the completely healthy version until you see him moving well with your own eyes.

Kerry Wood
- Wood isn't ready to throw off a mound just yet. he'll likely start the season on the DL. If all goes well he'll be back by May.

Eric Gagne - Gagne also claims to be 100% healthy and says he'll be in his old form by summer. "There is no doubt" he said, "No doubt at all that I'm going to go out and do my job. I know that for a fact."

Barry Bonds - He might retire. he might not. Don't pay any attention to what he says. Instead pay attention to how he moves and how often he plays. If he looks normal draft him.

Adrian Beltre - Beltre will be the starting third baseman for the Dominican Republic in the World Baseball Classic. According to Dominican Republic manager Manny Acta, Beltre was one of the first to sign up for duty.

Pedro Martinez - Pedro has been testing out his new custom shoes, which are designed to protect his ailing toe. Pedro acknowledges that the toe may keep him from participating in the World Baseball Classic. The Mets are being supportive of Pedro's desire to pitch for the Dominican Republic in the WBC probably because they know getting Pedro angry won't help anything. The Mets say Pedro can pitch on the toe as it is but fear that if the toe really pains him he may alter his delivery and hurt his arm as a result. Omar Minaya pointed out that all players who participate in the WBC are fully insured.

Billy Wagner - Wagner was feeling queasy on Monday and was unable to throw off a mound. he went home with a stomach virus. Apparently his kids had been sick with it all week.

Scott Rolen - Scott Rolen had his surgically repaired shoulder examined Saturday by the Reds medical examiner Dr. Tim Kreunchek, who also performed the operation. Although the results were not made public the Cardinals seemed encouraged by Rolen's long tossing session in the outfield on Monday.

Andruw Jones - Jones isn't content with his 50 homer season in 2005. he wants to exceed it this year by being more consistent. He wants to hit for a higher average. i don't put anything past this guy. He's got all the tools.

Andy Tracy - Tracy was traded from the Indians to the Orioles the other day. Tracy has some power but don't make anything out of this. Tracy mike be okay off the bench but he'll have no fantasy value. I'm really only listing it because it was a trade made during spring training.

Gary Sheffield - Brian Cashman in an attempt to control a potential problem announced to Gary Sheffield that barring anything unusual the Yankees would be picking up his $13MM option for the 2007 season.

Greg Maddux - Greg Maddux mentioned his next potential contract as a motivational factor this season. When guys like Maddux are motivated (especially by money) don't bet against a big season.

Josh Hancock - Josh was releaseed for being 17lbs overweight. Did anyone really care?

Mark Prior - Prior is once again behind the other pitchers in Cubs camp. In the last two years he's pitched in only one regular spring game. Prior suffered from a throat infection this winter that required him to go the emergency room. he has yet to throw from a mound this spring. The Cubs are making noise about putting on a slower more methodical rehab program this spring. I guess it can't hurt. The Cubs really need Prior to stay a part of the rotation this season if they hope to have a prayer of contention.

Aramis Ramirez - Ramirez was visibly slimmer coming into camp this year. Ramirez has expressed an interest in playing in the WBC but seems to be leaning towards sticking in Cubs camp. He is still apparently recovering from his injury problems and wants to put his health and the Cubs before the WBC. What a great guy.

Erubiel Durazo - Durazo signed a minor league deal with the Texas Rangers. He had ligament replacement surgery in July. he should nicely complicate the DH position for Texas.

Peace.

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Preparing-For-the-2006-Fantasy-Season-Part-Two

posted by Jon Williams
Felipe Lopez
Felipe Lopez probably came cheap in 2005 and makes a great keeper.

If you followed the direction given in Part One of Preparing for thr 2006 Fantasy Season you have a grasp on two things. The talent on your roster and its general worth to others in your league and what sort of talent the other teams in your league are holding. With this information you're armed to take the next step.

Trading to Increase the Talent Level of Your Keepers



In order to trade effectively you must always have three things in mind:
  1. The strengths and weaknesses of your present group of keepers. This means you know the dollar value of your players for the next season (an approximate level if you haven't found projections you like or prepared your own). The positions where you have good talent you can keep and the positions where you don't have good value. You also want a general idea of the auction value of your keepers. You need this information so that you don't trade away more value than you mean to trade and so you know how much value you should expect in return.
  2. The needs, strengths and weaknesses of the team who holds the player you've targeted. It is never to your long-term advantage to rip off another team. While you should target the players that best suit your needs you also need to keep in mind the needs of the team you're dealing with. If at all possible you want to offer your opponent players he needs. If you can't actually offer what a team needs you should be sure to offer significant value in return. You should always consider whether or not you'd do the same trade if you were in the shoes of your opponent. It isn't always necessary that you would do the trade in reverse but you must be able to see why your opponent would do the trade and what value they'll receive in return.
  3. How the trade effects your talent level, your draft budget and your draft strategy. Before making any trade you should have at least a general idea of your draft or auction strategy and how the player or players you're seeking fit into that plan. You want to be sure that you are getting a player or players that will actually help develop your strategy rather than just adding players at good values. For example, Mark Buerle at $22 may be a great deal in your league but if your strategy is basically LIMA (Low Investment Mound Aces) you'll actually be wrecking your own plan. In the same league Hideki Matsui at $24 may not be a great bargain but its a player that will actually fit into your plan and that is your primary goal.
Before you make any deals you should rank your keepers in order of value. You want to know which players fit best into your strategy and which should be traded if at all possible. If you can keep eight players and you have twelve quality keepers then #'s 8,9,10,11 and 12 become the players you'd most like to trade. If you can't improve over your eighth keeper then you shouldn't attempt to trade but rare is the occassion where you can't trade and make yourself better. Also, if you've somehow ended up with four great second basemen trading at least one of those should be a priority.

Here are three tips for making trading easy:

  1. Don't bother with lowball offers. Lowball offers are insulting. When your opponent becomes insulted two things happen. He wants to get the better of you and he becomes resistant to your efforts to trade with him no matter how reasonable your subsequent offers become. A good way to judge is to measure the amount of profit your end of the trade provides against the amount of profit on your opponent's end. Don't offer any trades that are more than 10% in your advantage.
  2. Make offers your opponent can actually accept. While you're offering fair value consider if your opponent can actually fit the players onto his roster of keepers. You maybe able to offer your opponent six players with a profit of $30 total for a one player who is $30 undervalue but your opponent gets nothing out of this deal but clogged roster spots. Also, don't offer your opponent a corner if he already has three corners that are obviously better values. Taking your opponents needs into consideration will always make trading easier.
  3. Don't be afraid to overpay if you can do it safely. If you have an abundance of quality keepers and cannot use them all in fair trades, overpaying to get a player that may not have been available otherwise is a very acceptable if underused tactic. Just take care that you don't make your leaguemate a better deal than necessary or that making the trade makes your opponent's roster stronger than yours. When you will obviously have to overpay it may be wise to make your first offer one that cannot be refused because it is so obviously in his favor.
I apologize about the large gap between posts lately. Real life intervened and made posting difficult. But I should be back on a regular schedule from this point forward. Thanks for sticking around. Peace.

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The Marlins Trade Luis Castillo to the Twins

posted by Jon Williams
MLB.com has the story:

First reported by ESPN's Peter Gammons, the 30-year-old Castillo is heading to Minnesota for hard-throwing reliever Travis Bowyer and Scott Tyler, who can start or relieve.

Castillo is the latest big-salary player to be dealt by the Marlins, who are streamlining their payroll now that their stadium efforts in downtown Miami have fallen through.



Fantasy Impact:

Castillo's arival will push Cuddyer into a battle for right field with Kubel and Ford. It pushes Punto to the bench. GM Ryan seems to want Cuddyer to win a spot but thus far he has failed to keep the job for an entire year. We'll also have to watch how this affects the lineup. Will Castillo move up to leadoff or will he stay in the #2 spot this time behind Shannon Stewart? Joe Mauer should benefit by finally having someone to drive home. This is especially true if the Twins sign Mike Piazza or Frank Thomas as has been rumored. Looks like the Twins are finally going to put together a lineup to go with their great pitching.

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