As mentioned a while back here, there isn't much in this present day American South that has adequately stepped in to fill the NHL void. In general, interest in ice hockey around here has fallen off considerably. And regrettably, my own personal feelings towards the sport have followed that same path.
Yet, all winter long, as viewers were persistently teased with those 5 second commercial spots for espnu, it never occurred to me that this new network would be helping me find- so soon again- an interest in ice hockey.
Now, just two hours from this moment, a game will be played in Grand Rapids, Michigan that will have a major impact on the Frozen Four. Colorado College and The University of Michigan will face off at 5pm EST in front of an undoubtedly pro-Wolverine crowd.
Both of these schools would have had a chance to play in the championship game, had they not had to face each other so soon.
In these parts where I live, hardly anyone knows about today's game. Less will actually watch it.
But I've not only prepared my day around it, I'm also checking local rinks for available pick-up times.
So this is what it's like.
The 27-29 year olds; age as of opening day.
Stats are 2004
Vlad's still the 4th or 5th best player overall, but since he's played at least 150 games in every season since 1998 except one (2003, 112 games), I wonder if this could be a year he misses another 50 games. He had a knee and back problem last year that obviously didn't affect his production, but it may become more of a problem as Guerrero gets older. He's still a one of a kind player, although 40-40 is no longer possible. I'd place him fifth overall, after Pujols, ARod, Beltran, and Tejada.
Carlos only hit .258 in his 90 NL games last year, and that is a concern for anyone that will cost you a top five pick to get. His average at Minute Maid Park was .224 so he probably just got caught up in trying to yank everything over the short parts of that ballpark. Now that he's playing half of his games on a more symetrical field, I think he'll even out that average. One interesting trend is that Beltran has alternated .300 seasons with sub-.275 seasons his entire MLB career. Carlos is one of the most efficient base stealers around. He's stolen 192 career bags and has only been caught 23 times over his entire MLB career. The Mets are historically not a big running club, but with Willie Randolph managing them this year, they are going to run, run, run. I'd personally rate him the best player overall this year, because he'll hit close enough to .300 to make another season near 40-40 worth it.
Steals are obviously hard to find, but I don't know if it's worth using a second round pick on someone like Pierre or Crawford. One advantage of Pierre is his sturdy .300 average. This is pretty much his ceiling though. Crawford has the power potential to hit 15 HRs. There isn't much value in taking Ichrio, Crawford, or Pierre so early, but if you do, make sure you get some power at the middle infield positions.
70 steals. Now, I'm a strong believer in spreading your steals out across your entire team and when considering a player like Podsednik, you're basically putting a lot in one basket. Scott hit .314 in 2003 so his .244 last year will probably end up this year closer to .275. His .213 Miller Park average won't be around in 2005 to pull him down. Scott just did not hit at home last season. Either way, he's not a player I recommend unless you can get him way after the 63rd overall selection.
When I talk about spreading your steals out across your entire team, I'm talking about adding players like Carlos Lee. He's been stellary consistent over the last two seasons and I don't see the move from AL to NL having much affect. On the downside, Lee's efforts have not gone unnoticed so he no longer is a bargain pick.
Lance seems to be progressing well after knee surgery. As he ages, the steals will go away and the power will get back closer to 40 HRs. He just signed a long term deal and should be back in May. Berkman is a good value pick because of the injury.
Last season was the year to grab Drew. He was a late round pick who put up solid numbers across all five categories. Now that you have to pay full price to get the former Seminole, it's not really worth the risk, is it? If you think he'll stay healthy, then give it a shot. The move from Atlanta to LA shouldn't have much affect on J.D. He makes great contact and has has enough power to hit 30 HRs anywhere.
I'm slipping Vernon in here because he has enough MLB experience and is coming off a disappointing 2004 to warrant addition. There's a ton of value in Vernon this season because this was a guy who was being drafted in the third round last year. People are taking him 97th overall and you have as much of a chance of getting the same numbers from Wells as you do from Drew or Lee. Next season is Wells' money year, but 2005 will prove to be cheapest value you can get him at.
This is it. No really, this is the year Andruw does it. Okay, not really. Jones is a lifetime .268 hitter who's only hit above .277 for an entire year once. He hasn't stolen enough bases in the last three seasons to make much of a difference and the best he seems to be able to do is 35 HRs and 110 RBIs. There's really nothing here to get excited about. Someone will surely take him before they take other players on this list who are more deserving of a mid round pick. Someone more deserving like...
...this guy. After the all-star break, Aaron hit .319 15 HRs, 48 RBIs, and 8 SBs. His numbers before the break weren't too bad either, but what we basically have here is a player about to have a huge season. Of course, there's the chance that he may pull an '04 Morgen Ensberg on us, but that's what this whole search is all about. Risk versus reward. Getting players undervalued is always better than paying regular price or more. There are always surprises, and there are always disappointments. If I could, I'd trade every pick from the 2nd round to the 7th for everyone's 8th and 9th round picks.
I'm lukewarm about Torri only because he's not easy to trust. Some years, he steals bases. Some years not. Some years, he hits .290. Some years, he hits .250. At least his power numbers and run production stay consistent. Nonetheless, there are a ton of outfielders who are more reliable.
The issues about his release from the Angels last year create doubt for some this year. Guillen's current draft rating has him at 128th, and at that spot, he is a great value. Jose's first half numbers from 2003 are about as good as you can get. And with an everyday job last year, he produced very well. Until he got fired. The Nationals need this guy's bat in the middle of their lineup and Guillen is back with his former GM from the Reds. Provided he plays in 150 games, I don't see how Jose hits less than 35 HRs and drives in less than 110 RBIs, unless of course he's a Juice Testing Victim.
Who Ford? Take advantage of his relative anonymity. But before you draft Ford, read this article. He's going to have to prove this year that he can make the necessary adjustments to his hitting. Pitchers know how to limit him, so Ford has to change. His 2005 success depends on it. If he hits, he'll steal bases too. So to spend a 150-170 overall pick on Lew is not such a bad gamble. Do what the Twins will do to him. Take Ford as a backup outfielder and see if he produces.
Hildago is back in Texas, and he's back in a hitter friendly park. If it means anything, in 26 career at bats in Arlington, Richard has 13 hits, including 5 doubles and 1 homerun. He's going to mash in Texas. 35 HRs is what I predict. I prefer OFs who run a little more, but Hildago is a good pick up for the power numbers alone.
Don't write Burrell off yet. Like last year's J.D. Drew, Burrell may finally be in the right situation to bounce back. He's being ignored way too much. And just based on his first half from last year, a .275, 30 HR season is still a great pickup from a guy who you can get in the last few rounds of a draft. Save a bench spot for him.
I don't like Jones' inconsistent average (that's a fun use of the baseball language). I don't like Jones' inconsistent run production. And I don't like that Jones was caught stealing 10 out of 23 times last year. He turns 30 in April, and I'd rather take a chance on Burrell.
Kevin has injury concerns, but he also had a great second half to last season and is a true sleeper coming into 2005. He's a power guy who will drive in 15 more runs than he will score, but there is room for Mench on fantasy teams that play 4 or 5 OFs. Other than the durability issues, Mench looks like a real good bargain at his current rating of 212.
If Byrnes does stay with the A's, this could be another good year for him. He'd steal more bases if he hit higher in the order, but I like that Eric is projected to hit 5th because it'll help round out his numbers. Byrnes offers reall good 20-20 value as a 4th or 5th outfielder. His average may suffer a little this year, but I think he can hit around .275.
Eric Byrnes will hit in the middle of the order because the A's will most likely bat Kotsay and his baggy pants at leadoff. Mark's a good bet to go 15-15 with 100 runs and a.305 average.
Endy is a young 27, his birthday was in February. But he could win the Nationals' center field job and bat lead-off. Endy has played on and off the last two years without much job security. A quick start for him could turn into a 40 steal season. A bad start for him could leave him the odd man out in Washington.
Berkman's injury may just open up the much needed spot for Jason Lane. He's one of those weird guys who bats right but throws left. What were his parents thinking? Regardless, Lane gets a break because he'll get an opening day spot. By the time Berkman is ready to come back, I expect Jason will have played himself into the regular starting lineup. Lane's game is power, and he could easily put 30 HRs on the board this year. At the age of 28, he's one of those guys who could seemingly come from no where and be one of the free agent pick ups of the year.
A couple of other guys of note: Jason Bay looks like he ready for a disappointing season. Magglio Ordonez comes in way undervalued because of his knees and he may be worth a late pick. Just don't expect him to steal bases ever again. By this time last year, it may be too late to get Corey Patterson with a middle round pick. Same goes for Adam Dunn. And keep your eye on two youngsters, Jeremy Reed in Seattle, and Matt Holliday in Colorado. Both of those guys will end up on someone's team.
The 27-29 year olds; age as of opening day.
Stats are 2004
Miguel, a career .276 hitter, put up a .311 mark last year to set himself a career high. His 2004 splits are so frighteningly consistent and Tejada turns just 29 in May. He's the top SS for this year, and he's a good pick at his his current value (9th). But the short stop position is no longer the weakest spot in fantasy baseball, so it's important to look at what else is out there. Nonetheless, Tejada is deserving of his late first, early second round status.
As 2B/SS eligible, Michael Young was much more valuable last year than he is this. He's the 4th rated short stop and I think that's too high considering he 2004 numbers are close to, if not exactly what his offensive ceiling is. Young makes a great fantasy 2B, but as a short stop who you'd need to take in the 50s-60s, he's overvalued.
Last year was one of those years where it's smart to stay away from a 28 year old when he's coming off of career best numbers. Like I anticipate Michael Young doing this year, Renteria ended up having a solid 2004, but because he underproduced according to his draft value, he was labeled a bust. So this year, I'd take advantage of his 'over-rated' reputation because Renteria is still a very good hitter who, even though he's changing teams, will hit in one of MLB's best lineups. He's got the kind of swing that may lead the AL in doubles, hitting off that big green wall in Boston. Just don't mistake Renteria for what he isn't and you won't be disappointed. This is a 29 year old SS who will hit over .300, score 100 runs, and steal close to 20 bases. Anything on top of 10 HRs and 75 RBIs is extra credit.
Furcal sneaks in because he's been a full time major leaguer since he was 21. I like him here because this is his sixth season in the bigs and his numbers slipped a bit last year. He's due for an improvement. Over the last two seasons, Furcal has brought his BB to K rate closer and closer to 1:1 and his numbers after the break last year was 28:31. Add in to that the 21 (of 29 total) SBs Rafael had after the break and it seems like he's setting himself up for a pretty good 2005. Furcal's raw speed has always been a tease for a 40-50 SB season. This may be that season.
If I put Furcal on the list then I have to put Rollins here too. Jimmy's 2004 production was very similar to Rafael's, except that Rollins' numbers were mostly career bests for him (so far). Both SSs are entering the 2005 season as 26 year olds embarking on their 6th MLB season. Rollins really turned it on after the break too, hitting .310 and 11 HRs. Also like Furcal, Rollins reigned in his BB to K ratio (57:73) last year. The difference between the two is that Furcal is being drafted a full ten players ahead of Rollins. Since both stand a pretty good chance to hit .300 and swipe 40 bags, the value pick goes to Rollins. But there just isn't much difference. Furcal's just a little better, so he'll go sooner.
All the warning signs are there. Guillen is coming off an amazing season that ended because of injury. He's missed half of the spring, having played his first game on 20 March, and there's just no way he's going to live up to being picked one spot before Brian Giles and Lance Berkman.
Ichiro played his first season in MLB as a 27 year old and he stole 56 bases while hitting .350. Kaz's first year was much less spectacular, but there is room for optimism. Matsui's July featured a .336 average, .500 slugging, and .884 OPS. He spent the last 2+ months after that fighting through injuries so it's hard to tell if that July was a streak, or a sign of adjustment. Kazuo will move over to second base because he wasn't a very good shortstop in the majors. He's one of those switch hitters who probably should have just stuck to hitting righty a long time ago but it's too late now to change. His ceiling isn't that high, but if the Mets keep him in the #2 hole all year, he'll hit .300 and score 100 runs.
What did Angel do so well that earned him the 2003 ROY Award? He was a pesky spark for a surprisingly good Royals team that year but in 2004 both Kansas City and Berroa came crashing down to... well, Kansas City. Berroa turned 27 in January, so he should be mature enough to adjust, but I have concerns when a player's good year includes a 1:3 walk to strikeout rate. Speaking of, the Baseball Prospectus Empire cites that Berroa is little more than a Alex Gonzalez and I don't see anything to counter that.
Touched on with the 2B, but since then Roberto Alomar has retired and the chances that Lugo bats #2 in the DRays lineup have gone up. Julio is still a great value candidate at SS or 2B.
I can't belive Wilson had 201 hits last year. Sure he only walked 26 times but that's just the kind of aggressive player Jack is. The double in doubles (21 to 41) and quadrouple in triples (3 to 12) from '03 to '04 shows some kind of improvement across the board and it seems likely that Wilson's 2003 season was not a fluke, but just solid improvement. Well, maybe the .308 average was a bit lucky, but by only 10-15 points or so. Playing with the Pirates means that the runs scored and runs batted in will be lower than useful, but considering Wilson will go undrafted in many leagues, he's worth a look if one of the big SS suffers an injury.
Guzman's career has followed the same path as Furcal and Rollins has, minus the overall success. Crisitan's run production numbers have been interestingly consistent though. It appears his floor is 80 runs and 50 rbi's and about a .270 average. I only put him on this list to be fair because of Furcal and Rollins. What happened to Guzman being a threat to steal a base? Bah.
It's so hard to hit .232 over 159 games that I can't imagine Gonzalez will do it again anytime soon; if for no other reason than he'd be on the bench. Consider also that Alex finished the 2003 season hitting .203, and, well, at least he's only 28, right.
Everett was a popular pick up last year after a stong April and May, but he came back down soon after. The 27-29 crop of short stops is a little light in the depth department, but if I had to pick from Berroa, Guzman, Gonzalez, or Everett, I'd put my hopes with Adam. Still, there are other options. Like punting.
Not worth their price
Past Ten Posts
2006 NFL Combine
Thursday Football (II)
Wednesday Football (II)
Coin Flip Challenge - November
Red Line Sports
On The Wings
The Net Files
Andrew's Stars Page
so very obsessed
Covered in Oil
Battle of Alberta
Battle of Ontario
Puck Stops Here
Pro Football Weekly
Pro Reference Guide
Fanball Matchup Index
Braves and Birds -ATL
NFL Pick of the Week
Baseball News- R.I.P.
The Hardball Times
Roto Times Notes
Roto World MLB
Pro Sports Daily MLB
BTF- Local Links
Stats Inc Data
MLB Clubhouse Links
Lets Go Tribe
Over The Monster