by Moonlight Graham

The Final Fantasy Baseball Forecast of the 2008 Regular Season

“This is it. Don’t get scared now.”

You probably started back in February when you first sat down and started poring over 2007 stats. You picked up momentum in late March as spring training wrapped up and you headed into your draft. You got rolling as your squad started the season well and, after a few key free agent pickups and solid trades, you find yourself heading into the season’s last series with a chance to win it all. Just three games standing between you and a title. So, after all of that work, can you afford to sit still? Not likely.

If your league is anything like the HK Fantasy league, the race will come down to one or two categories. Spots where things are so close, a single run batted in or earned run could decide the championship. Currently, Lou Carducci’s Mean Street Posse is trying to hold off late season charges from the Skippy Shakes and Ricciardi Brothers Inc. After leading for most of the season, the Posse has seen most of its lead slip away, resulting in a slim two point lead at the beginning of the final week. What will probably decide things is the WHIP category, where Carducci and Bobby Carr’s Shakes are hundredths of a point apart. As that total fluctuates, so do the standings. RBI has seen its pitching vault to the top of the ERA standings and bring him within three of the lead. His focus remains on his team’s win total.

So, here we are. One weekend for all of the marbles. In this final regular season forecast, we’ll talk about those players whose talents are category specific, are probably free agents and could be the one guy to put you over the top. Good luck.

Home Runs

Royals’ 1B Ryan Shealy has been a long time fantasy prospect who is finally starting to pay dividends. He’s got 6 HR in a month and has been given the starting job.

RBI

Shin Soo Choo has settled into the third spot in the Indians’ lineup while posting a .310 BA for a surging squad. His position between Grady Sizemore and Victor Martinez should allow for him to see a lot of good pitches.

Batting Average

Edgar Renteria has quietly put together a solid 2nd half in Detroit yet remains a free agent in many leagues. He’s had a number of multiple hit games in the last few weeks.

R/SB

Michael Bourn’s terrible BA for the Astros have landed him on more than a few free agent lists. He is however, still leading off when he plays. In Atlanta, speedster Josh Anderson seems to be getting a long audition for the 2009 CF job. He has 8 SB to this point. Finally, Rajai Davis remains unclaimed in many leagues despite 29 SB in 243 AB. He’s not a regular, though, so make sure he’s in the lineup.

K

Tampa will likely give its top prospect, David Price, a start this weekend. His minor league K ratio was outstanding. Brandon Morrow is another free agent who averages better than a K per IP.

W

No particular pitcher comes to mind. Look to acquire young pitchers getting an audition and pitchers facing weak teams.

WHIP

Here’s my advice. Instead of picking guys up, pull your starters and leave your WHIP where it is. Look for your opponent to churn his staff and drop below you.

by Moonlight Graham

Down To The Wire

Ten days to go and it’s nail biting time for Fantasy Baseball contenders. Micro managing is in season as a one point move in any category could be the difference between a title and disappointment. Be careful, however, as an attempt to improve in one fantasy category could result in severe pain in another.

Such was the case last week in the HK Fantasy league as Skippy Shakes owner Bob Carr found himself looking to pick up a few saves in order to win the category. He picked up Luis Ayala of the Mets and activated a clearly not ready for prime time George Sherrill of the Orioles. After both got finished throwing batting practice later that day, the Shakes found themselves not only trailing in S but down two points each in ERA and WHIP. Adding insult to injury, Carr had placed Cubs P Ted Lilly on his reserve roster in order to get Brandon Morrow’s start vs. the Royals on Tuesday. As if he had something to prove, Lilly went out and threw a gem vs. the Astros on Monday. “It’s like they know” said Carr, who long ago made the same switch with Hideo Nomo only to watch Nomo toss a no-no at the Rockies that evening. “I woke up Sunday morning in first place and went to sleep 5 points out.”

The beneficiary of Carr’s gaffes was Mean Street Posse owner Lou Carducci, who suddenly found himself in second place after leading by a wide margin for most of the campaign. His glee was short lived, however, as he watched Carlos Zambrano throw a no-hitter on Sunday night while on the Posse’s reserve fantasy roster. “That doesn’t even come close to what Carr did”, said Carducci, “he specifically farmed Nomo in Coor’s Field to protect his ERA. He couldn’t have been more wrong. In my case, Zambrano had been out for awhile and no one knew for sure when he’d start due to Hurricane Ike. His is still the bonehead move of all time.” Looks like the last ten days are going to be a lot of fun.

* * * * * *

Rising

Look for the Rays to give LHP David Price a start or two before the season is done. He’s the prize of their farm system and was just called up. Josh Johnson has compiled a 5-1 record after missing most of the season due to injury.

Falling

-Pedro Martinez has been giving the Mets fits as he continues to struggle with arm strength and command. The Mets’ staff has been depleted by injury so, they have no choice but to run Pedro out to the hill at least three more times this year. You don’t have to. Be careful. Robinson Cano, in a year long slump, was benched by Yankee manager Joe Girardi for a lack of hustle.

SICK BAY

– J.D. Drew returns to the Sox this week after missing time with a bad back. Carlos Guillen may be out for the year with a pinched nerve in his back. Royals’ 3B Alex Gordon returned from the DL after missing time with a torn hip flexor.

FARM FRESH

-Nine year old Luke Ricciardi recently became one of the youngest players to take a ball out of the park at Manalapan LL in New Jersey. You can probably get him late in any Minor League draft but he’ll be worth the wait.

by Moonlight Graham

The Case for Albert Pujols

In New York, Carlos Delgado has become the feel good story of the fantasy baseball season, riding a hot streak through the second half and leading the Mets to the top of the NL east. His 33 HR and 100 RBI are numbers that were not only deemed unreachable at the beginning of the season but seemed just as impossible not two months ago. His resurrection has prompted many conversations about the possibility of the big first baseman taking home MVP honors at the end of the year. While there are some reasons for Delgado to warrant consideration, it is not entirely clear that he is even the Mets’ MVP let alone the league’s. Many will point to Jose Reyes or David Wright as the best the Mets have to offer. Regardless, any conversation regarding the NL MVP should begin and end with Albert Pujols.

The St. Louis first sacker came into the season having already acknowledged that he would have to undergo elbow surgery. Not wanting to miss any time, he vowed to play for as long as he could stand the pain. This revelation caused him to drop out of the first round of many Fantasy drafts. The Moonlight Fantasy preview advised against using a top ten pick on him. Many also wondered why he would postpone surgery during what was to be a down year for the Cards. Albert has made fools of us all.

Heading into this week, Pujols had a .360 BA and an impossible .466 OBP. His 32 HR and 95 RBI are very impressive but not as eye popping as his DiMaggio-like K total of just 48. On top of everything else, despite losing three of their top 5 starters and their closer, the Cardinals have been able to stay in playoff contention throughout the year.

Anything can happen, as evidenced by last year’s travesty that saw Jimmy Rollins get the award over the more deserving Matt Holliday, but if Delgado beats Pujols, the voting system should be changed.

RISING

Adam Dunn has been gotten some starts at 1B for the D’Backs and may qualify there in your fantasy league. He has been hot of late with a terrific OBP. Bronson Arroyo was recently named NL Player of the Week and is a free agent in many leagues.

FALLING

Brandon Webb has failed in three straight attempts to gain his 20th win. The Arizona ace may be feeling the effects of a long season.

GRAB BAG

3B Dallas McPherson was called up to the Marlins after belting 42 HR at AAA Albequerque and could provide a late power boost.

DROP ZONE

Jeff Kent underwent knee arthroscopic knee surgery last week and could return to the Dodgers just before the playoffs; too late to help Fantasy owners.

SICK BAY

Cubs’ starters Rich Harden and Carlos Zambrano have been shut down due to shoulder ailments. Cleveland DH Travis Hafner returns this week, more so the Indians can evaluate his progress than to contribute. His shoulder is still not 100% so, don’t expect any power. Billy Wagner’s season appears over as elbow problems persist.

fantasy baseball season, fantasy league, fantasy drafts, Fantasy owners, Fantasy preview

By Moonlight Graham

Fantasy baseball standings: Details, Details

The first week of September usually finds only three or four fantasy baseball teams in contention.  Many of the also-rans have long since turned their attention to fantasy football, leaving all but a few scrambling for that extra point or two that could make the difference between second place and a fantasy baseball league title.  One way that you can pick up an easy point or two might be to stay on top of the aforementioned fantasy owners at the bottom of the standings.  Make sure they keep their fantasy baseball rosters current.  Even though they may have fallen out of the race long ago, they still have a bearing on the way things finish.  For instance, the eighth place team in your league might be trailing the leader by just two SB.  It then becomes incumbent upon him to replace an injured base stealer.  Unfortunately, owners buried in the standings sometimes look to keep their transaction totals down in order to save money and end up adversely affecting those in the title chase.  There is absolutely nothing more frustrating then watching a rival get a free point due to another’s negligence.

Any other miniscule point gains are garnered by old fashioned attention to detail.  Keep a watchful eye on MLB September callups, especially those made by rebuilding teams like the A’s , Giants and Nationals; all of whom may take a look at minor leaguers who could fit into their 2009 plans.

RISING

One player who jumps out as one who could be immediately helpful in the SB category is Oakland OF Najeh Davis who has already accumulated 24 SB in just 165 AB.  He registered his first 4 hit game last weekend and looks like he’ll get regular playing time throughout the rest of the season.  After spending much of the last two seasons unhappy with his role, Brett Myers has turned in three straight dominating performances for the Phils.  While he has struggled mightily for most of the year, don’t forget that he has been a 200+ K pitcher in the past.  Mark DeRosa is enjoying a career season with the Cubs and has been hot of late, recently homering in four straight games.  Raul Ibanez is staging his annual hot September in Seattle as he and Adrian Beltre seem to be the only M’s not playing out the string.

FALLING

Tigers’ 3B Carlos Guillen sat out a few games last week to rest a sore back that has been troubling him all year.  He has a mere 10 HR and only 54 RBI while not running at all on the basepaths.  While the Cubs have been marching through the NL Central, someone seems to have misplaced Derek Lee’s power bat.  The big 1B has endured a long and severe power drought.  Brandon Lyon has allowed 10 R in his last 5 1/3 IP.  With the D’Backs in a pennant race and Jon Rauch and Chad Qualls as options, Lyon is a bad outing away from being replaced.

GRAB BAG

The Rockies have chosen to keep Jorge De La Rosa in the rotation after two solid performances.  Brandon Morrow returns to Seattle after being sent down for a conversion to starter.  His outstanding K ratio could give your staff a quick boost.

DROP ZONE

Livan Hernandez has been relegated to the Rockies’ bullpen.  Aaron Heilman has been unable to step forward as the Mets’ closer and will get fewer opportunities as rosters expand.

SICK BAY

- Evan Longoria is targeting an early September return to the Rays’ lineup.  Justin Upton returns this week to the D’Backs roster having K’d 22 times in 51 rehab AB.  Reds’ hurler Johnny Cueto is suffering from elbow soreness and could miss a start.

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