Off Season Prep and the next Fantasy Baseball Season

So, Moonlight, what can I do over the winter to prepare for next season?  It’s a question that’s found its way into my mailbag more than a few times over the last few weeks.  Now, I don’t expect that many of you follow the box scores from the Arizona Fall League or the Hawaii Fall League but, aside from those, there are a few easy steps to lay the groundwork for next season.

For the moderately serious fantasy player, a weekly check of sites like CBSSportsline or ESPN will provide you with Hot Stove updates regarding transactions, injury rehabs, contract status, etc.  Keeping yourself informed about these types of situations could potentially add a little more flavor to the player evaluations you’ll start during Spring training.

Serious players subscribe to the numerous websites available.  Two of my favorites have been Rotowire.com and Ron Shandler’s BaseballHQ.  As many know, Shandler is the founder of Tout Wars, a league of Roto experts chronicled by Sam Walker in his highly entertaining book, Fantasyland.  It was Shandler who first bridged the gap between the worlds of Fantasy and Major League baseball when he was hired as a consultant by the St. Louis Cardinals.  His annual tome, The Baseball Forecaster comes out in December and is full of all kinds of trends and analyses that I use to support or debunk some of my own opinions.

Also in December, the website MockDraftCentral.com begins hosting mock drafts for baseball.  They can be an invaluable tool in slotting players in your upcoming draft as well as getting a feel for how long you might be able to wait on your favorite fantasy sleeper picks.

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It was an eventful year for the members of the HK Fantasy league.  The league title wasn’t determined until the final batter of the final game when Seattle’s J.J. Putz recorded a save that gave Bobby Carr the half point he needed to break a three way tie with Lou Carducci and Luke, Bob and Lou Ricciardi. More importantly, as has always been the case in the HKRBL, friends who remain in touch with each other because of Fantasy Baseball were able to share in each other’s accomplishments and milestones.  Jack Sullivan’s son, Andrew, exploded on to the college recruiting scene with his 90 MPH fastball that has even drawn interest from the Chicago White Sox.  Unfortunately, Andy’s rights are currently held by the Shady Gradys and have been deemed untouchable.
Eddie Mayrose proudly watched his son, Terrence, complete his college football career on his way to a Sport Management degree in May 2009.  Luke Ricciardi, at the tender age of 9, became the youngest fantasy owner in league history as well as the youngest player to go yard in his Little League.  Jamie Farley survived his first year in the league while both Tim Alfano and Chris Aucone got to face the television during the draft.  Most importantly, Ken Jankowski is expecting any day and will join Patrick Grady as a brand new father.

While on the subject of the Shady Gradys, they easily take the award for milestones this year.  Not only did Patrick welcome his two baby girls into the world but Dylan Grady, nephew of Pat and Brendan brought a little class to the operation as a new owner.  Uncle Brendan will be the league MVP next week as he and his beautiful fiancée, Kelly Dolan, tie the knot.  All in all, it’s been a great year. Despite all of the economic worries and fears about job security our spirits were buoyed by each other and our mutual friend; Baseball.

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Well, you know I… I never got to bat in the major leagues. I would have liked to have had that chance. Just once. To stare down a big league pitcher. To stare him down, and just as he goes into his windup, wink. Make him think you know something he doesn’t. That’s what I wish for. Chance to squint at a sky so blue that it hurts your eyes just to look at it. To feel the tingling in your arm as you connect with the ball. To run the bases – stretch a double into a triple, and flop face-first into third, wrap your arms around the bag. That’s my wish, Ray Kinsella. That’s my wish. And is there enough magic out there in the moonlight to make this dream come true?  Archibald “Moonlight” Graham

Enjoy the Holidays.  Ninety four days till pitchers and catchers.

Moonlight’s Final Report Card

Never let it be said that anyone mistook Moonlight for Mel Kiper Jr.  While the ESPN NFL Draft pundit subjects each franchise to his highly subjective scrutiny each April, he rarely, if ever, looks back at his own projections to review how successful or disastrous they might have been.  Not so here at the Fantasy Forecast.

It is the nature of Roto players to not only crow about their selections that worked out but also bemoan those picks that derailed their chances at winning.  So, as a dyed in the wool Roto man myself, here is the Moonlight report card for 2008.  A review of the fantasy sleepers that panned out and the studs that blew up.

Best Picks- SP A.J. Burnett fell just short of 20 W in Toronto while leading the AL in K. SP Rich Harden remained mostly healthy and posted an incredible ERA and K ratio.   C Geovany Soto worked his way up to the middle of the Cubs’ order by September while posting 23 HR and 86 RBI in his first full year.  OF Corey Hart gave the Brewers a 20-20 season while Rays’ C Dioner Navarro made his first All Star team. In Texas, 2B Ian Kinsler was leading the league in BA and TB when he went down in August and Rockies’ OF Brad Hawpe was a second half RBI machine. Even Manny Ramirez, devalued in many drafts, brought smiles to those who followed Moonlight’s advice.

Worst Picks- Tigers’ 1B, 3B, SS Carlos Guillen made a mockery of his 100 RBI projection with a sub-par fantasy season filled with injury.  Troy Tulowitzki did the same.  What many fail to realize, however, is that he was really bad before he got hurt, raising questions about the Rockies’ SS heading into ’09.  Rickie Weeks was a Moonlight favorite who turned into a bust as he spent most of the year battling to raise his BA over .220. In Houston, C J.R. Towles was so bad, the Astros turned to Brad Ausmus.

Incomplete-Angels’ C Mike Napoli started and finished the season on fire.  It was the injury plagued middle that turned out to be the problem.  Still, a C who pokes 20 HR in under 300 AB has value in any season.  The Twins spent most of the summer with their best pitcher in Rochester.  In a financial gambit that likely cost them the AL Central crown, they left SP Francisco Liriano in AAA where he posted a 10-1 record with a sub 2.00 ERA rather than recall him and start his arbitration clock.

Best Call-SP Chad Billingsley would be the Dodgers’ ace by year end.

Worst Call- Braves’ OF Jeff Francoeur would win the NL MVP award.  (The HK Fantasy League has had a lot of fun with this one.)

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