Monday, December 01, 2008

Would You Draft Phil Hughes

posted by Jon Williams

After years of hype, Phil Hughes has finally hit his low as a fantasy baseball prospect. He has had little if any value in even the deepest of leagues. Hughes is now claimingto be ready for 2009 but we've heard similar declarations before. beyond the occasional flash of talent he has done nothing for fantasy owners.

But...

Those flashes... He seems to end every season on a roll. He dominated the Arizona Fall League. In the AFL he loked exactly like the ace that the Yankees have been counting on in their rotation. Remember when he was ranked higher than Joba Chamberlain?

Tell me in the comments if you would draft him in your leagues in 2009.
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Saturday, November 29, 2008

2009 Fantasy Man Early Expert Mock Draft

posted by Jon Williams
A few weeks ago I participated in the Fantasy Man's Early Expert Mock Draft. I went in without any real strategy in mind. I planned to make some out of the box picks and see what the reaction was like. I think I finished with a very solid squad that has more upside potential than most. The Fantasy Man has a post on his blog that has collected the thoughts of a few of the experts.


I am very curious to hear your thoughts.


See the entire draft here

C Joe Mauer

C Dioner Navarro

1B Justin Morneau

3B Alex Rodriguez

CR Adrian Beltre

2B Mark Ellis

SS JJ Hardy

MI Jason Bartlett

OF Matt Kemp

OF Nate McLouth

OF Jermaine Dye

OF Nelson Cruz

OF Coco Crisp

Utl Jason Giambi

P Cliff Lee

P Rich Harden

P Josh Johnson

P Gavin Floyd

P Chien-Ming Wang

P Brandon Morrow

P George Sherrill

P Heath Bell

P Joakim Soria

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To Have a Great Hot Stove Season

posted by Jon Williams
Head over to the RotoExperts.com baseball blog for my article on how to have a great hot stove season.

Reflect on last season

This very valuable step is often missed, especially when your fantasy baseball season ended in frustration. By looking back we can uncover where we went wrong. Did we take too many chances at the draft? Have you become predictable? Was that drunken Fourth of July trade you made with your weasel of a cousin a bad idea? Did you dump CC Sabathia on some “sucker” after his second terrible start in April? Making these self-evaluations, we can stop ourselves from making the same mistakes again.

We should also take the time to study our rivals. How did your league champion win? Does he make amazing trades? Did he rebuild for two years? Maybe your rival has a weakness for players on the Boston Red Sox that you can exploit. Does he have what looks like an unbeatable collection of young stars he can keep? Perhaps he exploited a loophole in the rules. We need to know our rivals as well as ourselves.

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Thursday, November 27, 2008

Favorite Statistical Sources

posted by Jon Williams
Everyday there is another great site pops up that presents the baseball team and player statistics. The sites linked below are my favorites. They are not only great, they are free, so please support them in whatever fashion possible.

TheBaseballCube.com
When I want to get a quick sense of a player thebaseballcube.com is the first place I go. Not only do I get the basic stats that count for fantasy but key bits of information such as birthdate, age at each level, college stats, honors and awards that have been granted the player and a bunch more.

FanGraphs.com
When I need to understand where a player is going statistically or when I want to know why they rose or fell, this is the site I check. Fangraphs has tons of great stats that you rarely find on other sites - wOBA, IFFB percentage, HR/FB, IFH%, WPA and tons more. Plus, this site has a great blog that Dave Cameron --one of the best baseball bloggers on the planet -- contributes to frequently.

HardBallTimes.com
Sometimes I just need someone else to do the heavy lifting for a whilw and that means a trip to hardballtimes.com is in my future. Everything is here -- the news, the stats, the analysis, the fantasy spins, and the great reads. These guys also produce one of the very best baseball annuals in the business. Their annual has everything that the Baseball Prospectus Annual and the Baseball Forecaster are always missing.

FirstInning.com

When I need to study a prospect there is only one source for advanced stats (that won't cost you an arm and a first born) and that is FirstInning.com. All of the stats you want when you're studying up on major leaguers are here for minor leaguers. Plus - prospect lists, charts, graphs, park factors, league factors -- everything you need to seriously examine prospects is here.


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Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Thanksgiving Hot Stove

posted by Jon Williams

This is not shaping up as a good off-season for my fantasy teams. Matt Holliday (OF, OAK) was a big part of my 13 team NL-only league. Holliday, of course, was dealt to the American League dwelling Oakland Athletics. That same team included Chase Utley (2B, PHI), about to have surgery on his hip. The best-case scenario for Utley seems to be the shaving of a few bone spurs and a rehab process that would keep him inactive for most of Sprint Training. The worst case would involve serious repairs and a prayer for a return in July. In addition, as you have probably guessed, that same NL-only squad features Chad Billingsley (RHP, LAD), who slipped on some ice and broke his fibula on Friday. Billingsley should be ready for the start of Spring Training but my plans to trade him are crumbling. I hope that your off-season is going better than mine is.

Hot Stove Report

The Braves Claim a LOOGY

The Atlanta Braves claimed Eric O'Flaherty (LHP, ATL) off waivers from the Seattle Mariners. O'Flaherty has some potential as a bullpen lefty. He is a groundball specialist who has shown strikeout potential in the minors but has fooled no one in his brief stints in the majors. He will not be in the closer mix so his fantasy value is zero (if not less than that).

The Phillies Trade Tools for Power

The Phillies traded their most advanced outfield prospect, Greg Golson (OF, PHI), for John Mayberry Jr. (OF, TEX), the Rangers power hitting prospect. Golson has all of the baseball tools. Unfortunately, he has demonstrated few of the baseball skills the Phillies expected their former first round pick to develop, especially plate discipline. It is worth noting that the Rangers have shown a remarkable ability to turn disappointing outfield prospects into productive major leaguers the last few years. Golson's ability to play center field gives him a chance to make the Rangers as a reserve if they trade Marlon Byrd (OF, TEX) as rumored. Golson should be watched carefully in Spring Training.

John Mayberry has gone backwards as a prospect. He has traded walks for a more aggressive approach at the plate, which has resulted in more homeruns but not much else of value. The Phillies do need a power hitting left fielder if Pat Burrell (OF, FA) leaves via free agency. This is a situation worth watching. If the Phillies are unable to sign a big name outfielder Mayberry could become a serious option.

The Red Sox Strengthen their Bullpen

The Red Sox traded Coco Crisp (OF, KC) to the Royals for Ramon Ramirez (RHP, BOS). Ramirez is a good relief pitcher. If Ramirez improved his walk-rate (3.89 in 2008) he could be a potential closer. He has held opponents to a .235 batting average in his career and just .220 in 2008. He also collects about a strikeout per inning. The seventh and eight innings were a problem at times for the Red Sox last season, Ramirez shores that up nicely. Unfortunately, for fantasy owners, Ramirez is probably third or fourth in line for saves behind Jon Papelbon (RHP, BOS).

The Royals Acquire Coco Crisp

Coco Crisp had some horrible luck while in Boston. He broke his wrist, suffered a separate hand injury amid a series of other minor but aggravating maladies, and lost his job to a much-hyped prospect. Here is an early Big Fat Claim: Coco Crisp will regain all of the power he seemed to lose as a Red Sox with the Royals. Barring any bad news, he will be coming into this season completely healthy, with a full time job for the first time in three years.

Billy Beane Signs a Reliever

The Oakland Athletics signed Chris Schroder (RHP, OAK) formerly of the Washington Nationals to a one-year contract. Schroder has little chance of making the major league team but Billy Beane sees something in him so this transaction is worth noting. What Beane sees is a mystery to me. He does not get groundballs, he walks too many batters, and he allows too many homeruns. Gasp! Perhaps Billy Beane signed a player based on his scouting report rather than his stats. Schroder was once considered a future closer by the Expos/Nationals. Nah, it couldn't be that.

The Cardinals Steal Some F.A.T.

The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent Ian Ostland (LHP, StL) to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training. Ostland had some fantastic indicators in the Tigers' minor league system. Because of his age, Ostland is not a prospect but his numbers are too good to ignore. Players like this become quality cheap relievers for smart teams. In 2008 is K/BB ratio was an impressive 4.53. His .319 BABIP indicates he was probably unlucky last season. The Cardinals are a great team for a guy like this. The Cards have a ton of uncertainty in their bullpen (including the closer role), LaDuncan has made a habit of turning older players and failed prospects into valuable parts and based on stats Ostland is as good as any of them. Owners in deep leagues must pay attention this spring.

The Cubs Re-Sign Ryan Dempster

The Chicago Cubs re-signed starter Ryan Dempster (RHP, CHC) to a four-year, $52 million contract. Dempster may have gotten a little lucky in 2008 but there are no glaring flukes in his stats. He is a groundball pitcher that gets a little less than a strikeout per inning, which is the formula for a great starter. If his walk-rate goes back to normal and his HR/FB (which was a very low 7.7 percent) returns to his career average of 11.1 percent, we could see some regression but not enough to rob him of all his value. If I owned him, I would be holding him.

The Orioles Sign Some Spare Parts

The Baltimore Orioles signed Brad Hennessey (RHP, BAL) and Donnie Murphy (INF, BAL) to minor league contracts and invited them to Spring Training. Hennessey is a terrible pitcher. His pathetic K/9 is only slightly higher than his bloated walk-rate. In 2008, he even reversed his GB/FB trends and allowed significantly more fly balls than grounders. He allows too many homers. He is also moving to a far worse park and league for pitchers. Hennessey should not be a fantasy consideration.

Donnie Murphy is a linedrive hitter considered a top prospect at times in his career. Unfortunately, he has never put together a season worthy of such a designation. His biggest problem is making good contact. He struck out almost 37 percent of the time during the 2008 season. His power is good but he does not hit enough flyballs to be a big homerun hitter. For the Orioles, Murphy is only an option as a utility player unless we see Brian Roberts (2B, BAL) traded.

The Giants Get Some Relief

The San Francisco Giants signed Jeremy Affeldt (LHP, SF) to a two-year $8 million contract. Affeldt was a top prospect of the Kansas City Royals who failed as a starting pitcher. He seemed to be failing as a reliever too until something seemed to click for him last season with the Cincinnati Reds. His fastball velocity made a significant jump and his strikeout rate made a corresponding leap. His walk rate also improved significantly. Affeldt has always been an extreme groundball pitcher and was even more so in 2008. Now Affeldt is moving from the hitters' haven of Cincinnati to one of the league's better pitcher's parks in San Francisco. It also does not hurt that the Giants have been obsessed with defense the last few years. If Affeldt's improvements are real (and there is little to say they are not) he should excel for the San Francisco Giants in 2009. Fantasy owners in deep leagues should be paying very close attention.

Washington Adds options at First Base

The Washington Nationals signed 1B/3B Matt Whitney (formerly of the Cleveland Indians) to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training. The Nationals selected Whitney in the Rule V draft in 2007 but had to return him to the Indians after a poor Spring Training, so they obviously like him.

Whitney was a top batting prospect until he suffered a major leg injury in 2003. This cost him the next three seasons of his career so he lacks the at-bats you might expect a 25-year old minor leaguer to have collected after six years in the minors. In an attempt to take more walks and improve his on-base percentage, Whitney robbed himself of some power last season. However, he was successful at improving his walk-rate (11.3 percent) and if he can keep his gains and regain his power stroke he could be a stud in the making. The Nationals have some of the best talent evaluators in the game, and they believe he can do it. Whitney is someone to watch this spring.

Enjoy your Thanksgiving! May the football, turkey, and booze be everlasting. JonWilliams@RotoExperts.com
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Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Vote for the Next Fantasy Baseball Stud

posted by Jon Williams

Who is the next Fantasy Baseball Stud?

An early look at the biggest risers in fantasy baseball drafts.

The 2008 season saw the rise of several young players. Which one is your favorite for fantasy baseball dominance?
Matt Kemp OF Los Angeles Dodgers
B.J. Upton OF Tampa Bay Rays
Tim Lincecum SP San Francisco Giants
Evan Longoria 3B Tampa Bay Rays
Joakim Soria RP Kansas City Royals
Joey Votto 1B Cincinnati Reds
Alexei Ramirez 2B/SS Chicago White Sox
Dustin Pedroia 2B Boston Red Sox
Cameron Maybin OF Florida Marlins
Other - Please Comment Below

View Results

Create your own myspace poll

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Sunday, November 23, 2008

The Cardinals Steal Some F.A.T.

posted by Jon Williams
The St. Louis Cardinals signed free agent lefty Ian Ostland to a minor league contract and invited him to Spring Training. Ostland had some fantastic indicators in the Tigers’ minor league system. Because of his age, Ostland is not a prospect but his numbers are too good to ignore. Players like this become quality cheap relievers for smart teams. In 2008 is K/BB ratio was an impressive 4.53. His .319 BABIP indicates he was probably unlucky last season. The Cardinals are a great team for a guy like this. The Cards have a ton of uncertainty in their bullpen (including the closer role), LaDuncan has made a habit of turning older players and failed prospects into valuable parts and based on stats Ostland is as good as any of them. Owners in deep leagues must pay attention this spring.

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Thursday, November 20, 2008

Hot Stove Junkie

posted by Jon Williams























I blew up another computer last week and that's the reason for the sporadic posting. Hopefully I'll be back in prime blogging action tonight. For now you can satisfy your Jones for off season fantasy baseball articles by checking out my latest piece for RotoExperts.com, Hot Stove Junkie!

This is not a great trade for the Rockies. Greg Smith does not strikeout batters (5.25 K/9) and does not have good control (4.11 BB/9). This is a mortal combination in the thin air of Colorado. He also allows tons of fly balls (45.5 percent) and very few grounders (34.2). Avoid Smith in your fantasy drafts, as if he was the plague.

Huston Street is a competent reliever. However, he is another fly ball pitcher heading to Colorado. Street could retain competency due to his very good strikeout rate (9.07 K/9) but he will have to improve his platoon splits if he hopes to become their closer.

Carlos Gonzalez has all the tools and scouts drool over his potential. What the Athletics found out is that it may be awhile before he actually becomes a solid major league player offensively. Fortunately, for fantasy owners, the thin air has a way of speeding up the development process when it comes to batters.

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Vote for Dave Cameron!

posted by Jon Williams
Dave Cameron is one of the best baseball bloggers on the planet and he is up for a blogger scholarship. Let's help him get it! Vote Here!

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Saturday, November 15, 2008

Fantasy Baseball Strategies That Don't Work

posted by Jon Williams
All of the strategies listed below have been successful in the past. I am not labeling these strategies as terrible but rather as dated. In long running leagues (epecially keeper leagues) with experienced, savy ownership the use, or attempted use of these strategies will not only bring you frustration but also an unsuccessful season. This is because the experienced fantasy owner studies the strategies of his opponents and shapes his own strategy to ensure the disruption of his rival's plans and the furtherance of his own. To help you counter these obstacles I've provided you with three things:

1. A description of the dated strategy and how it was supposed to work.
2. The methods your opponent can use to disrupt the strategy.
3. An alternative way to re-shape the strategy to make it workable again.

The L.I.M.A. Plan

The LIMA plan was a great strategy for a while. Ron Shandler created the LIMA plan but in reality there were lots of great players employing similar strategies for years before Ron popularized it. LIMA, stands for Low Investment Mound Aces. The idea was that in a typical 12 team, 4x4, only-league with a $260 budget you couldspend $200 to build a top ranked offense and devote just sixty dollars to your pitching staff with no more than half of that budget spent on saves. You would select the pitchers you purchased from a very select group that met certain criteria:

• K/BB ratio of 2.0 or better
• HR/9 of 1.0 or less
• K/9 ratio of 6.0 or better
At the core of the strategy was one of the tenets of Advanced Fantasy Baseball - Draft skills, not roles. Using this strategy allowed you to draft the best pitchers in the game before they became the expensive closers and starters that so many owners were spending so much of their budgets to acquire.

This plan was a huge smash and it quickly became all the rage in fantasy leagues, which is also when it became almost useless. With everyone chasing the same group of pitchers the untouted starters and middle relievers that were once atainable for $3-5 were now costing well into the double digits. Even owners who were not strictly using the strategy knew to bid up the owners utilizing the LIMA plan (which if you knew the plan was very easy to spot).

Even Ron Shandler has moved on from using the LIMA plan. There are ways to make the LIMA play workable if you are determined to use a version of it. One very simple way is to increase the budget allocated to pitching to an amount that allows you to draft a nice collection of the better LIMA pitchers but not so much that it seriously diminishes your offense. Another method is to add an Ace Pitcher (one that meets the LIMA criteria of course) to the mix. Adding an ace will not only (in theory) increase your pitching points but it will also throw your competitors off the scent when it comes to guessing your strategy.

Stars and Scrubs

This strategy has been around for almost as long as fantasy baseball has been played and there are several variations. The object of the strategy is to buy as many top tier stars as possible (both hitters and pitchers) until you only have one dollar left for each of your remaining roster spots. The idea is that a large collection of stars will carry your roster and that your scrubs give you the opportunity to get lucky.

The strategy gets beat all hollow when your opponents bid up the better scrubs and leave you with the true dregs of the league. The strategy also requires you to get lucky with both the emergence of scrubs and the continued health of your stars. The tougher your league the more difficult it is to recover from the loss of your $40 stud hitter or $25 ace starter or closer. This is also a very dangerous strategy for the novice owner to use, especially in a league full of sharks.

The plan can be salvaged by reserving enough of your budget to allocate $2-5 on those last few roster spots. Another variation is to buy just one stud per position. In other words one stud catcher, one stud corner, one stud infielder, a stud outfielder or two, an ace starter, and a top closer. If done carefully this can be done with plenty of money left to fill your other spots.

Spread the Risk

This strategy attempts to do exactly what its name says it will. In this strategy the owner will spend no more than $30 on any player. This way the owner can afford to buy lots of talent and will not need to roster many (if any) scrubs. If used intelligently this plan ensures that the owner will have a deep, balanced roster. This protects the owner from injury problems and slumping superstars.

The problem with this method is that it is very league dependent. Every league is different and some will pay different prices for certain types of players. Anyone who has ever opened a fantasy guide and scoffed at the idea of players being bought for mid-teen prices when in your league these guys go for $25-30 already know the problem. If mid-tier guys are selling for $25-30, then the true superstuds are going for just $35-40. Thus cutting off your bidding at $30 also cuts you off from all of the best quality talent.

You can use a version of this plan if you are very familiar with the spending habits of your fellow owners and you are confident in your ability to adjust your spending on the fly. The important thing is to getyour fair share of the available talent.

Punting Categories

By sacrificing a roto category such as saves or steals, the owner hopes to use the money budgeted to those categories to dominate the other ones. In the vast majority of cases the owner chooses saves, because closers are often overpriced contribute to fewer categories than starters and middle relievers.

This strategy often fails because the owners who utilize it dump the category during the draft and fail to collect enough points in the other categories to win their leagues, though it is very good at placing owners within striking distance.

Making punting a useful strategy is very simple. Rather than dump a category for the entire season, just dump it at the draft. After the draft the owner should use every available resource to find the stats he ignored during the draft. By constantly monitoring the waiver wire and taking advantage of trade opportunities its possible to do quite well in the neglected category and thus have a shot at winning the league.

One Dollar Catchers

A very common strategy in fantasy baseball drafts is too ignore the more expensive catchers in favor of drafting two $1 catchers (or waiting until the end of the draft) that receive very few at-bats. The idea behind the strategy is that so few catchers are productive (and usually even the productive ones do not compare to the comparably priced outfielders or corner infielders) that the money it takes to buy the very best at the position is better spent on more productive players at other positions. And further that with not enough catchers to go around very few of the other teams would have strong catching anyway.

While it sounds okay, essentially dumping the catching positions, it creates two holes in your fantasy lineup. The owner with strong hitting from the catcher spots has an offensive advantage that can often make a huge difference in the final standings.

Very carefully scouting catchers can usually uncover productive catchers for bargain prices. last season Ryan Doumit and Kelly Shoppach were draft day bargains that carefully scouting may have revealed. This season Jesus Flores and Pablo Sandoval may be huge bargains at the catcher position. MLB always puts added focus on weak positions which ensures that eventually the development cycle will result in a better crop of catchers.

NEXT: On Sunday read why Buying Low and Selling High is not as simple as it sounds.

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Friday, November 14, 2008

FSIC American League Draft Order

posted by Jon Williams
Advanced Fantasy Baseball will be drafting from the eighth spot in the American League Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge. Here is the whole draft order with the other competitors listed.

1Fantasy Baseball Dugout
2The Fantasy Man
3Fantasy Sports Commissioner Training Institute
4Rotohelp
5Sporting News
6ProFantasy Baseball
7Roto Central
8Advanced Fantasy Baseball
9Fantasy Sports R Us
10BBall Deluxe
11Open Team
12Fanball

I'm glad to see that there are some great sites competing. We all know how boring it get when the competition is not up to the challenge.

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Nick Swisher Joins the Yankees

posted by Jon Williams
Check out my RotoExperts.com blog for the fantasy spin on Nick Swisher joining the New York Yankees.

In case you missed it:

Yesterday, center fielder and first baseman Nick Swisher and minor league pitcher Kanekoa Texeira was traded from the Chicago White Sox to the New York Yankees for utility infielder Wilson Betemit, and minor league pitchers Jeff Marquez and Jhonny Nunez.
Check in late tonight (maybe the morning) for a article on Fantasy Baseball Strategies.
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Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Hot Stove Junkie

posted by Jon Williams
Hey peoples.

I have a new off season baseball column at RotoExperts, Hot Stove Junkie, featuring weekly fantasy spins on all the Hot Stove Transactions --from the biggest trades to the most obscure waiver pick ups. Check it out by clicking on the title link above.

I've also accepted an invitation to appear in the The Fantasy Sports Invitational Challenge, where I've been given a seat in the American League.

I've also been blogging for RotoExperts. My first few posts are on Matt Holliday and the Nationals trade.

And just in case you were wondering... This site is about to explodein production. It will now feature daily posts. Most posts will be of the quick hits variety but every Friday and Sunday you'll find expansive articles exploring the tenets of Advanced Fantasy Baseball and this is just the beginning.

Don't forget to subscribe to our RSS feed. If you aren't familiar with RSS check out the fantastic Google Reader and believe me you will be hooked. It revolutionizes blog reading.


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Sunday, November 02, 2008

New Situation: Mike Jacobs - Traded

posted by Jon Williams

Traded Player: Mike Jacobs

Old Team: Florida Marlins
New Team: Kansas City Royals

Background: As a 38th-round pick by the Mets in 1999 out of Grossmont (California) Junior College, Mike Jacobs was always an unlikely major league star. Jacobs received a chance at big league at-bats after a trade from the New York Mets to the Florida Marlins as part of the exchange for superstar slugger Carlos Delgado.

What the Scouts Say: Jacobs has hit 80 home runs and slugged .498 in four big league seasons making him a major power source for the often cash-strapped Marlins. As a Marlin, he has just a .318 on-base percentage. He cannot hit lefties (.235/.275/.414 versus them in 338 career plate appearances) but is acceptable against righties (.257 average and .315 on-base percentage in 2008). He is not much of a base runner and is below average defensively at first base.

What the Stat Guys Say: Sabermetricians will question why the Royals, who presently hold the rights to a wide variety of cheap alternatives at the first base and designated hitter spots, would spend their assets (even one as limited in ceiling as Leo Nunez) for a player that isn’t very good and not much of an improvement over players already on the forty-man roster. Kila Ka'aihue had a nice season at triple-A but needs to demonstrate that he has actually made a step up in performance level before the Royals can commit to him at the major league level. Ryan Shealy is now 30 years old and has yet to perform in the major leagues on a consistent basis. Counting on either of those players to outplay Jacobs would be a lousy bet. Billy Butler has been highly touted but has yet to perform in the majors and is not a favorite of Royals general manager Dayton Moore. Jacobs hits fly balls and line drives at good rates for a power hitter. His BABIP suggests that he was unlucky last season (.264 in 2008 compared to his career rate of .292) and indicates that he could rebound slightly even though moving to the tougher American League.

Fantasy Outlook: Look for the Royals to platoon Jacobs in the lineup with right-handed first baseman Ryan Shealy to maximize their production at first base. As the left-handed batter in the platoon, he should see enough at-bats to be an asset to fantasy teams. Do not be surprised if the platoon is not a conventional one. For defensive reasons Jacobs may appear as the designated hitter in order to get top prospect (and equally poor on defense) Billy Butler some games in the field. Fantasy leaguers can expect solid power and a just barely acceptable average from Jacobs in 2009.

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