Brian, Butler, Email, Feature

The Email Forum: AL Central Preview


From: Ryan Butler <omnistraight@yahoo.com>
To: Brian Dorsey <rotoballs.brian@yahoo.com>
Sent: Tuesday, March 8, 2011 9:17 PM
Subject: Re: AL Central Email

Ladles and Jellyspoons, I give you the AL Central:

Minnesota Twins. Who thought anybody would miss the Hubert H. Humphrey Metrodome? Certainly the home team didn’t think they would. With its’ Hefty Cinch Sak right field wall covering and inflatable roof, the Twins definitely needed a new place to play. They got what they wanted in 2010, with the opening of Target Field. It’s a beautiful edifice, wisely designed, forsaking the power-hitter and custom-tailored to meet the needs of the pitcher. It’s the Petco Park of the American League. What it means to the fantasy owner is a fairly steep decline in production from heretofore-excellent fantasy hitters.

Last season, I made the mistake of taking Joe Mauer with my first pick. Unaware of the spacious dimensions of his new digs, I figured a 20-homer season was well within his reach, along with good RBI and run totals, not to mention a .330 batting average. I came to rue the day I made that decision, as Handsome Joe fell far short of his anticipated production. The new park was much to blame, as Michael Cuddyer and Jason Kubel met similar dubious fates at the hands of Target Field. Cuddyer was hit the hardest, seeing his home run total drop from a career-high 32 in 2009, down to 14 last season. Kubel managed to hit 21 homers, and will hit 20 again this year; he always does. One Twins hitter who met (or in his case, greatly exceeded) expectations was Delmon Young, of the famous Hitting Young Brothers. But even he only hit 6 of his 21 home runs at Target Field. Same goes for Justin Morneau, who hit the vast majority of his home runs on the road. As for Jim Thome, the corny Yellowstone Park joke applies: even at 41, no park can hold him. He’s a Hall of Fame power hitter. Danny Valencia is a good-looking young player, but I’d hold off until he shows more power.

Francisco Liriano is a great fantasy option. If he stays healthy, he is a lock for 15 wins and 200+ Ks. Carl Pavano had the second-best season of his career, though I expect him to take a step back this season. Brian Duensing is a very intriguing pitcher in the No. 4 spot, and could overtake Scott Baker as No. 3 starter. The fifth-starter job is a competition between Nick Blackburn and Kevin Slowey. I think Slowey will win that final spot. If Joe Nathan returns to form following Tommy John surgery, he is one of the best closers in baseball. If he’s not ready to go, Matt Capps is a very capable closer.

The Chicago White Sox should prove to be Minnesota’s stiffest competition for the division championship. They will score runs, and their success, as a team, will depend on how well their pitching staff holds up, because it has some big question marks.

The outfield of Juan Pierre, Alex Rios, and Carlos Quentin is good, if not spectacular. Pierre will do what he does, which is hit .285 and steal 50 bases. Rios will go 85/20/88/24/.280. Only God knows what Carlos Quentin will do, but rest assured, whatever it is, his batting average won’t be better than .250. In the infield, they are very solid at short, second, and first, with Alexei Ramirez, Gordon Beckham, and Paul Konerko. Third base is a big question mark, with rookie Brent Morel and the underachieving Mark Teahen competing for the job. At catcher, there may be a more consistent player in baseball than A.J. Pierzynski, I just don’t know who it is. Oh wait, yes I do. It’s his new teammate, Adam Dunn. Throughout his career, his HR and RBI lines have such a small degree of deviation, it’s kind of weird. Whether he plays some first base to spell Konerko (probably a little), or DHs exclusively, he will hit 40 bombs and drive in 100 runs.

The starting rotation is full of guys who are pretty good in real life, but not so great in terms of fantasy play. They all have the potential to reach 15 wins, but with lackluster strikeout totals and WHIPs in the 1.30-1.40 range. Jake Peavy is the exception, but the injury he suffered last July detached was so severe and unique, projecting his performance when he returns is impossible. Chris Sale is a very intriguing young player, but the trouble with him is that no one seems to know what the Chi Sox plan to do with him. He could fill Peavy’s spot in the rotation until he returns, or he could end up closing. There’s talk of sending him to Triple-A for “more seasoning,” but he was so good in 21 games with Chicago last season, that’s not happening. I would say the chances of him closing are slim, since the White Sox just gave Matt Thornton a two-year, $12 million contract. That’s closer money, not set-up man money.

The Detroit Tigers did very little to their starting lineup this off season, with one very major exception, signing four-time All-Star Victor Martinez to a four-year $50 million contract. That’s mucho buckolas, but Detroit is banking on his bat to put them over the hump. He is a uniquely gifted hitter that will add power and a .300 batting average to an already solid offense. At third base they have Brandon Inge, he of the .237 career BA. At first base they have the best hitter on the planet not named Albert Pujols, Miguel Cabrera. Yeah, he’s fat and he drinks too much, but nothing short of a nuclear winter is going to stop him from going 90/35/115/3/.320. I love this guy! Some people are born to hit. Some are born to get fat. Some are born to drink heavily, and some are born with a supremely unique genetic makeup, which predisposes them to do all three. Miguel Cabrera is just such a man; he is a modern-day Babe Ruth.
Up the middle, the Tigers have two solid second-tier fantasy options, with Jhonny “Don’t Call Me ‘Ja-Honny'” Peralta at shortstop and Carlos “It Only Seems Like I’ve Been Around Forever” Guillen at second base. In the outfield, Ryan Raburn is finally getting his chance to be an Opening Day starter in left, with Austin Jackson in center and Magglio Ordonez in right. Raburn could do very well this year, but I think he loses fantasy value by virtue of his no longer having 2B eligibility. Jackson’s BABIP was a ridiculous .396 last season. His LD% was equally nuts (24.2), so I would expect at least a slight drop in production, unless he can cut back on his whiff total (170 Ks last year). He’ll steal bases and score runs, so the only thing really keeping him from being a very good fantasy player is his complete lack of power (4 home runs his rookie season). Ordonez is not getting any younger, but is still a great hitter. He’s played in only 215 games the last two seasons, so health is a definite concern.

I like their starting rotation a lot, with perennial Cy Young contender Justin Verlander and young flamethrower Max Scherzer at the Nos. 1 and 2 spots. Both should be a great source of wins, Ks, ERA, and WHIP. No.3 starter Rick Porcello is a soft-tosser and not a very attractive fantasy player. Lefty Phil Coke is being moved from the bullpen to the rotation, which could be a good thing, if he can improve his K/BB ratio. His career K/9 of 8.3 is very good. He may not get drafted, but he’s worth keeping an eye on.

I love their bullpen, from the closer Jose Valverde to setup men Joel Zumaya and Joaquin Benoit, there are saves, holds, Ks, and low WHIPS to be had. Never mind the fact that Zumaya is always hurt. And never mind that the very sight of the bespectacled Valverde and his silly antics fills me with a murderous rage. They are a devastating 1-2 punch. The Tigers will be an interesting team to watch this year.

Now for the Indians. All I can say about them is “yikes.” It’s going be a rough year in Cleveland. The youth movement is in full effect, and we all know how that usually goes. Looking at this team, I see a lethal mix of young, unproven players, and veterans who are on the decline or recovering from injuries. Their best player, Grady Sizemore, has only recently resumed baseball activities after micro fracture surgery on his knee. It’s an extremely risky procedure, and no one knows how the knee will hold up once he returns.

With Sizemore’s status up in the air, the only for sure fantasy option I see among the team’s hitters is, of course, my boy Shin-Soo Choo.  You know my feelings on him if you read Cruz vs. Choo: Blood Feud: This Time it’s Personal, a written debate with my colleague, Brian Q. Dorsey XI.

Another player with great fantasy potential, especially when you consider the position he plays, is Carlos Santana. I mean, everybody already knew the guy can play a mean guitar, but boy oh boy, what a hitter! In 46 games after his call-up, he showed great power and plate discipline, compiling an .868 OPS. His rookie year ended in catastrophic fashion on August 2, when Santana did his best Joe Theismann impression in a home plate collision with Boston outfielder Ryan Kalish. It may not have been the most horrific baseball injury I have ever seen, but it’s in the top three. The images of Robin Ventura’s foot swiveling around the end of his leg like a windsock, and of Jason Kendall’s ankle snapping like a twig are the forever burned into my brain. The Indians expect him to be ready by Opening Day. In our keeper league, DLee Slangin’ Rocks, I am allowed to keep seven players, and the only thing that kept me from holding on to Mr. Santana is the fact that I have Buster Posey. This kid is going to be a special player.

The starting rotation is not good. Their No. 1 starter is Fausto Carmona, who hasn’t been any good since 2007. I don’t see any of these pitchers being fantasy-relevant and they do not bear discussing here.

In the bullpen, Chris Perez not only looks like an adult version of McLovin, he is also a very good pitcher, and will put up good closer stats even on this weak Cleveland team. Good sleeper option.

Now, there are two things I really like about the Kansas City Royals. One, their uniforms. And two, Joakim Soria. Not too terribly much else. Soria is probably the best closer in baseball, as he’s converted 91% of his save chances since making his debut in 2007. His numbers are crazy-good across the board, and he is the best fantasy closer this side of Carlos Marmol. Soria will be one of the top three closers taken, so if you want him, you better be the one who starts the closer run on draft day.

The starting rotation is a train wreck, and no one in it is worth even a second-glance.

Offensively, only a couple guys are worth a fantasy roster spot. Mike Aviles is a nice second-tier option at second base. He’ll hit for a good average, steal a few bases and should have eligibility at all infield spots but first base. At first base, Billy Butler will hit .300 and drive in 90, but will give you no more than 18-20 home runs. You’ll need more power out of your 1B, unless you’ve managed to draft a power-laden outfield to offset his lack of pop. Wilson Betemit at third base, and Jeff Francouer in right are fringe fantasy players, at best.

From: Brian Dorsey <rotoballs.brian@yahoo.com>
To: Ryan Butler <omnistraight@yahoo.com>
Sent: Thursday, March 10, 2011 6:50 PM
Subject: Re: AL Central Email

Jellyspoons here. I was so ready to talk about the AL Central, but then you went and wrote a dissertation on each team. Is there much left to talk about? I’ll do my best.

Calling Target Field a cavity in the Earth’s surface would be an understatement. It’s 411 to dead center and 365 to right with that oversized wall. Home runs won’t come cheap here. Justin Morneau and Joe Mauer aren’t going to get any “oops” homers. And I think that will certainly affect my decision to draft Minnesota hitters, but look for all Twins pitchers to excel again. In this park, Carl Pavano might’ve resurrected his career.

Regarding Joe Nathan, I really think anyone who drafts him expecting 40 saves and low ratios is going to get burned. You don’t just come off Tommy John and slide back into the role you had. Francisco Liriano is a perfect example of this. The first year back is usually a work in progress with pitchers, and it’s not until the second year where they regain their groove. You’re going to see a heavy dosage of Matt Capps in 2011.

I really like the White Sox, especially with Jake Peavy looking great in Spring Training. Listen, they have hitting, no doubt. Their offense is as dynamic as any offense in the American League: speed, power, and clutch hitting. And you’re right, the pitching here is good, but it isn’t fantasy good. Outside of Peavy, the best of the bunch is probably Gavin Floyd, but where are the Ks? You’ll probably see a lot of high scoring games in the South Side this summer, but I would imagine this bodes well for both their potential closers. I do agree with you, Thorton is getting closer money, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he and Sale split save opportunities or if Sale flat out overtakes the job by the end of the season. Either way, you don’t want either to be your top option in your fantasy bullpen.

You really think $12.5 million a year for V-Mart is, how do you say, “mucho buckolas?” That’s pretty cheap, my friend. If we were playing salary cap baseball, and you gave me $100 million, I’d have no problem giving a talent like Vic-Mar-T-Nez $12 mil. The only problem with him going to Detroit, regardless of Miggy, is it’s not Boston. There won’t be as many RBI opportunities. I’d be surprised if he gets over 80 RBI. He won’t get to play first base…ever. It’s catcher, DH, or bust.

I’ll assume you put these teams in order of the way you think they’ll finish in the standings. That being said, there is no way the Indians finish anywhere but last place in this division. They might be the worst team in the league. Sixty wins would be a successful year. The Indians circa Major League had less stacked against them than the 2011 Indians. Only three players should be on anyone’s radar here: Shin-Soo Choo, Carlos “Don’t Call Me a Musician” Santana, and Chris Perez. Go ahead and draft Grady Sizemore, please, take him, because he’s a headache that I’m not going to want.

I might be the only person who thinks the Royals are going to not only climb out of the cellar, but also compete for third in the Central. I know, I know! That’s crazy talk! Someone, please take this website away from me! But before you do, listen to this reasoning: The Kansas City Royals, yes, your Royals, Kansas City, have a lot of talented players. There’s Billy Butler, Mike Aviles, Jeffrey Francoeur, and Wilson Betemit. All of these guys are proven, and could produce big seasons. You have failed prospect Alex Gordon roaming the outfield nowadays. He’s almost out of options, his back is against the wall, so we’ll probably either see a really good Delmon Young type of season, or he’s going to fade into civilian territory. Their most interesting player? Alcides Escobar. The Brewers gave this kid a whole bunch of ABs last year, after he showed flashes of greatness in ’09, and he severely underperformed. But the guy is only 25 years old and he’s a ping-pong player. That’s eye-hand coordination right there. Watch out for him, this year or next.

The Royals also have a plethora of minor league talent, just waiting to prove that I’m not crazy. The only thing that is worrisome with this club is pitching. I don’t know if any team has more chips up in the air than those Royals. Vin Mazzaro and Jeff Francis were good adds for them in the off-season, but question marks surround both: Mazzaro is still young and unproven and Francis, a Cy Young Award contender in ’07, didn’t pitch at all in ’09 due to shoulder surgery and struggled last year with the Rockies.

I’ll be talking to you soon about the dreaded AL West soon, my friend.

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2 thoughts on “The Email Forum: AL Central Preview

  1. big o says:

    what’s the eligibility requirement ?
    raburn had 18 games @ 2nd base .

    chris sale will not pitch on windy days .
    6′-6″ …. 180 lbs .

  2. Eligibility is different depending on the what website you use. I think for Yahoo! it’s only 10 or 15 games.

    And Sale is a Rail. Yes. But his stuff is electric.

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