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Thursday, March 09, 2006 

What's Your Fantasy?

Spring training and the World Baseball Classic are in full swing, meaning its time to prepare for your fantasy baseball draft. Noob Sports went to the experts and asked them the tough questions that you need answered in order to dominate your league. The guest experts, Todd (aka Noop) and Derek (aka Mitch Richmond), have put in hours upon hours of research this winter and are the most knowledgeable fantasy people we know. The discussion below deals with players who have question marks or fluctuating value. More draft hotness to come in the following days...

- When is the right time to draft Mark Prior?

Todd: Prior is a big time injury risk, averaging just over 150 innings pitched over the last 4 seasons. The talent is obviously there, but because of the injury risk he is only a top ten starting pitcher, and should be drafted after players such as Rich Harden and Felix Hernandez. Overall, he is a 4th or 5th round pick.

Derek: Mark Prior's career numbers suggest that if he's healthy that he'll win twice as many as he loses (41-23) with an ERA around 3.24. By drafting Prior, you get a player with the potential to win 20 games and strikeout 250. So when do you take him? You take him after Johan Santana, Roy Oswalt, and Chris Carpenter during the fourth round, and don't look back when he repeats his 2003 numbers. (Bonus tip: Prior has a great record in April and May, and is a notorious hot starter when he does pitch, and that will inflate his value early. Dump him for a first rouder after he starts the season 4-0.)

NJV: I am as tempted by Prior's talents as anyone, but the shenanigans and secrecy during spring training make me way too nervous about his arm to draft him. When drafting in the early rounds, I try to minimize any and all risk, which enables me to take chances on unproven guys I like in the middle rounds. Prior doesn't fit in with my strategy unless he falls to the 6th round or later.

- Who are the top catchers, after Victor Martinez?

Mauer is the clear number 2, due to his ability to contribute in 5 categories. After that catcher is a very murky position. Look for Ramon Hernandez to bounce back from his injuries last year and be more productive than bigger names such as Pudge, Posada and Varitek. For a great sleeper, look to Josh Willingham of Florida. He'll get the starting nod at catcher, but also could play some in left for the Fish.

Derek: How about a .300 hitter projected to hit 20 HRs who could also steal 15 bags? Joe Mauer is an athletic 6'5 with power. I'll take it. Michael Barrett is a power hitter who will hit .280 and drive in 70 if anyone is on base in front of him. He spent the offseason muscling up and who doesn't love a catcher who wants to be an ultimate fighter after baseball? Look out Roy Oswalt... Javy Lopez can still give you 20 homers and Kenji Johjima averaged .300-25-80 in 7 Japanese seasons and is in the prime of his career.

NJV: For some reason, Jason Varitek is falling in drafts this year but don't forget he hit 22 jacks last year. He still plays in a great offense and in my league that uses OBP and SLG instead of average and homers, he is a huge asset (.863, .872, .855 OPS the last 3 years). Let someone else reach for the unproven Mauer and snatch up 'Tek a couple rounds later.

- Is David Wright a legitimate first round pick?

In a keeper league, the answer is yes. He has more potential than just about any player in all of baseball. In standard leagues, he should be a late first or early second round pick.

Derek: It's hard to believe, but yes. He's a bit of a gamble since he's put up big numbers exactly once and a lot will depend on where he hits in a solid Mets lineup. He gives you steals and home run power and doesn't have any holes in a nice swing. Will pitchers be able to find a weakness? Probably not.

NJV: Absolutely. The 23 year old hit .306 with 27 homers, 102 RBI and 17 steals last year and needless to say, I'm thrilled to own him in my keeper league. Since these numbers are coming from the hot corner, I would draft D. Wright over guys like D. Lee.

- How risky is Alfonso Soriano?

I'm very low on Soriano this year. His home/road splits from last year show that away from the Bandbox in Arlington, he is a very mediocre secondbaseman. He'll still be able to run, but won't get on base as much in Washington. He comes with the official TMNx "Let Someone Else Make This Mistake" certification. (As a side note, Alfonso Soriano is still the most potent Beer Die player in the history of the sport).

Derek: There's huge risk here, as you never know if Soriano will be a disgruntled Nationals outfielder or if he'll be a star 2b with another team. Either way, he's good for 20-20, which merits consideration by the third round. People who take him in the first or second rounds beware, Soriano's numbers were in decline before last year's resurrection in a stacked lineup in Arlington.

NJV: Soriano's average dropped to .268 last year and that's not likely to improve in his new home. However, he still is a threat to steal 30 bags and that's huge. Couple that with his power, and he still might rate as a top 20 pick. My advice if you want to fill second base early is to take Chase Utley instead. A better idea might be to wait until the 10th round or so and grab Rickie Weeks.

Who is Todd? I've got to say, he seems to know more about fantasy baseball than any of the other flunkies. He's probably the real brains behind this site.

This probably deserves an entire column, but TMNx said it correctly when he said "Alfonso Soriano is still the most potent Beer Die player in the history of the sport".

People argue that Gretzky's records (More ASSISTS than the next player has POINTS) are some of the greatest of all-time, maybe the home run record. People don't understand Alfonso's Beer Die expertise.

Folks, these records are unimaginable. Easily the most prolific offensive scorer of all-time. There isn't anybody on the same PLANET with Soriano, much less in the seame league. Add to the equation the fact that Alfonso's team has a winning percentage over 99%, and you've got one of the greatest athletes of all-time. This alone warrants a first round pick in a fantasy baseball league.

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