Vegas may not have been as hopping as we thought it would be (where was everyone?), but that doesn't mean that it wasn't as much fun as I was expecting. I participated in a baseball draft for the FSTA, networked at the conference, and talked shop with some of the best minds in the business. I also got the chance to spend some time with the brain trust of Fantasy Alarm, and without naming names, I can tell you that these are some quality people folks. You are in good hands if you have Fantasy Alarm bookmarked as a daily read. Now that my sucking up is at an end, though let's face it I'm nothing if not someone who understands the value of self promotion passing along accolades when needed, let's get down to the baseball analysis.
The titles in this piece are going to seem super geeky to some, but after having a discussion about Comic-Con over the weekend, and because DC Comics released a new marketing scheme, I thought why not turn to superheroes to help me to introduce each section. Hopefully my comparisons will make sense and you won't look down your nose at an adult who still keeps his toe in the comic book world.
Spider-Man - Dexter Fowler
We all know the story about Spider-Man right? A smart, shy kid who couldn't beat up a 17 year old girl flipping burgers at the local joint, he's bitten by a radioactive spider that transforms him into a superhero in tights. Fowler wasn't bitten by anything, and I'm not implying that he has been exposed to anything that would enhance his powers (i.e. PED's), an I'm pretty sure he isn't going to be prancing around the Rockies outfield in purple spandex either. So why the comparison to Peter Parker? Because Fowler has decided to get serious about his body which has been transformed by a new diet and workout regimen this offseason.
Fowler has added seven pounds of muscle to his spindly frame, while dropping his body fat by four percent. He's now a lean, mean fighting machine thanks to the help from Jason Giambi and Troy Tulowitzki. "I have put on weight before and felt heavy. This is the best I've ever felt," he said. I know you might be thinking – we hear reports like this every year an it never leads to anything. You're certainly right. A lot of these offseason reports are baloney and never lead to any on the field improvement. In this case though, I'm buying the hype.
Why would I bother to believe what the Rockies are selling with Fowler? No, I don't think that seven lbs. are going to morph him into Carlos Gonzalez, but I do think the added strength will obviously help him over the marathon that is the major league season. Moreover, in case you missed it, Fowler was producing like a champ last season in the second half. In fact, over his last 68 games played, Fowler hit .288, posted a .381 OBP, socked the ball to the tune of a .498 SLG and scored 51 runs. If he were to post numbers like that over the duration of an entire season we'd be talking about Fowler as a potential top-20 outfielder. I'm certainly not going to go out there on the proverbial limb to say that he's going to be a fantasy superhero in 2012, but given what it will likely cost to add him to your club on draft day, I have no problem recommending him as a talent that you should be targeting.
The Green Hornet's Kato - Yu Darvish
OK, so maybe this isn't the most P.C. comparison I could have drawn, but hopefully you get the point.
Darvish signed, finally, with the Rangers for 6-years, and $60 million. There is an opt out clause in the contract after five years, and there is about another $10 million in bonuses that he could attain. Will the Rangers, who also spent over $50 million just to gain the right to talk with Darvish, be getting a hero with superpowers, or merely a vigilante who wears a mask?
The 25 year old Darvish has the perfect pitcher's body. He's tall (6'5”), a bit lanky (215 lbs), and he has a nice repertoire of pitches at his disposal. During his five season pitching in Japan he went 76-28 with a 1.72 ERA, 0.89 WHIP and 1,083 Ks in just 1,024.1 innings. Moreover, he never posted an ERA over 1.88, an only once in five years was his WHIP over 0.90 (it was 1.02 in 2010). Darvish also had a mere 1.9 BB/9 rate in Japan, leading to a bowl you over impressive mark of 4.90 in the K/BB category. Oh yeah, he's also a big fan of the ground ball with well over 50 percent of all batted balls hitting the turf. However, as we have seen repeatedly, numbers like this simple do not translate to the big leagues. The reasons are numerous. (1) The competition is superior in the majors. (2) The stadiums play differently. (3) The ball is slightly different. It may not sound like that big a deal, but it could present some issues. (4) He'll pitch as part of a five man rotation not six like he did in Japan.
Darvish could end up being a fantasy star, an it could happen as early as this season. However, I'm kind of a careful type, that is unless I'm out at a bar in Vegas in which case I throw caution to the wind and try to impress the ladies with anything at my disposal (maybe even a trophy), so I'll probably avoid Darvish in most of my drafts as I simply don't feel secure in the knowledge that he will be a top-30 pitcher this season, and that's likely where he'll end up being drafted in a lot of leagues.
The Martin Manhunter - Yoenis Cespedes
J'onn J'onzz, aka the Martian Manhunter, is part of the Justice League. He possesses a host of powers, one of them being the ability to pass through objects, and he can also render himself invisible (or at least he could before losing that ability). That's why I compare him to Cespedes. What do we know about the Cuban born outfielder? Have you ever seen him play? Could you pick him out of a police lineup? Here's a list of the guy everyone is considering drafting even though they have never seen him play (here's a video of him, and it's pretty crazy so grab a bag of popcorn and watch the whole thing).
1- He is 26 years old and plays the outfield.
2- He will become a free agent who will be able to sign with anyone.
3- He's an excellent fielder who can handle center field.
4- He's physically gifted. He can run, jump and stretch. Just watch the video.
5- He can hit. His biggest skill there is his power, it's the kind you show up early to watch batting practice for, but it's also obvious that his swing is a bit too long and that he'll likely get eaten up a bit if he doesn't learn to shorten that stroke.
The talent is intriguing, but I'm not willing to stake my 2012 fantasy team on his talents showing through enough this season to lead my team to a championship.
The Death of Superman - Orlando Cabrera and Jorge Posada
If you're not a comic book junkie, you may not be aware that Superman was killed by Doomsday. That's right, the Man of Steel met his match, was killed, and was buried. Unlike Superman who was later revived, Cabrera and Posada have decided to call their careers over (Posada left open the possibility that he might also rise from the ashes, though it sure seemed like he was pretty sure hanging up the tools of ignorance was the right choice).
Cabrera will retire with 2,055 hits, 216 steals, a career .272 batting average, an a history as a solid glove on the defensive side of the game. He was also a solid middle infield option for about a decade, he stole at least 16 bases each year from 2001-08, while posting at least 550 at-bats in all but one season (he had 540 in 2005). He also had a couple of big efforts including his best effort in 2003 for the Expos when he had a 5x5 line of .297-17-80-95-24. Just for fun, do you know how many times a shortstop has hit all five of those levels in one season the last five years? Try two (both by Hanley Ramirez).
Posada, if he truly is done, will move on as one of the better hitting catchers of all-time. Never an elite performer on par with a guy like Mike Piazza, Posada had 10 seasons in which he went deep at least 18 times. He also had eight seasons of at least 80 RBI, posted a .374 OBP for his career and finished up with a .848 OPS. Even last year, when he struggled with health, a lack of playing time, and declining bat speed, he still hit 14 homers with 44 RBIs in 344 at-bats. Hopefully he will be content to ride off into the sunset.
Superman Returns - Jamie Moyer
Gone for five years looking for his homeland of Krypton, Superman returned to Earth to help set right what has gone wrong during his absence. In much the same way Kal-El returns balance to our planet, Jamie Moyer will try to balance out the game of baseball. Instead of battling Lex Luthor, Moyer will try to prove that 49 year olds, coming off Tommy John surgery, can still get major league hitters out throwing 81 mph fastballs. The Rockies were willing to give Moyer that chance so they signed him to a minor league deal.
At this point it's no certainty that Moyer will ever throw another pitch in the big leagues, an even if he does Colorado is an awful place to pitch for a guy who throws so softly. A little less dive on his change up, a little more lift on those fly balls, an it just doesn't seem like a match made in heaven. I'll be cheering for him, don't doubt that, but you'd be crazy to do anything other than draft him in the 29th round of an NL-only league. Just 33 victories from 300, Moyer has thrown 4,020.1 big league innings during his long and winding career.
Jean Grey - Joel Zumaya
Why am I comparing a man to a woman? It's not because Zumaya looks good in tights either.
Who is Jean Grey? She is the Phoenix of X-Men fame. She dies as a mere mortal with power of telepathy and telekinesis and is reborn as the Phoenix, a being that can basically control all elements of the universe. Now Zumaya can barely control how much food that he puts in his mouth, but there is no denying that he is continually being reborn after each successive injury. Most recently he was forced to undergo surgery on his elbow, and after reportedly hitting the mid 90's with his heater in a workout for scouts, the Twins were intrigued enough to offer the fire-balling righty to a 1-year deal for $800,000 which he accepted (he can basically double the amount he will be paid if he hits all the escalator clauses in his contract).
Zumaya didn't throw a single pitch lasts season, and the last time he has thrown even 40 big league innings was 2006. Yet, year after year, injury after injury, he comes back firing the heat (his average fastball in 2009-10 was an amazing 99.3 mph). Will he ever throw that hard again? There's no way to know until we see him out there on the hill, but the Twins made a nice low cost move adding Zumaya. AL-only leaguers might want to speculate in the reserve rounds and hope that he can stay healthy and flash the control that he displayed in 2010 (a career BB/9 of 4.89 has always held Zumaya back, but in 2010 that number dropped all the way down to 2.58).
Ray Flowers can be heard daily on Sirius/XM Radio on The Fantasy Drive on Sirius 210 and XM 87. His baseball analysis can also be found at BaseballGuys.com and you can follow him on Twitter as well at the BaseballGuys' Twitter Page.
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