by Moonlight Graham

2008 NL All Fantasy Sleeper Team

No matter how much preparation goes into a Fantasy season, no matter how many numbers are crunched and analyzed, no matter how much money is spent on gathering information, no one ever wins a championship without one or two players falling into his lap through no other means than dumb luck. The rookie pitcher selected with the last pick who suddenly becomes his team’s closer, the veteran coming back from injury that lands a spot with a new team or a player who suddenly realizes his potential are every bit as important to a Roto team’s chances as the players selected in the first few rounds. Simply put, you can’t win without them. Here is the 2008 Moonlight Graham All NL Sleeper team. All of them sure to have gone late or not at all in any draft. Hope you had a few of them on your squad.

Catcher

Ryan Doumit’s time as the Pirates’ backstop in waiting seemed to have come and gone. He’d shown flashes of his potential but had been moved to other positions to make room for Ronnie Paulino. When Paulino got hurt, Doumit took over and never looked back, posting a .318 BA, 15 HR, 69 RBI season.

First Base

Don’t even try to say that you saw this year coming out of Carlos Delgado. However, if you used a throwaway farm pick on him, you and the Mets laughed all the way to the bank on the heels of his 38 HR and 115 RBI. He even scored 96 R.

Second Base

Not only did Mark DeRosa reward fantasy owners with a career year but his multi position eligibility allowed them to move the versatile Cub and his 21 HR, 87 RBI, 103 R all over the field.

Third Base

It’s only been three years since Jorge Cantu posted 117 RBI for the Rays but it seems much longer. Last year was a complete bust as he only played in 52 G. Florida took a shot on him in ’08 and ended up with a three hole hitter that rang up 29 HR and 95 RBI.

Shortstop

After having lost all of ’06 to injury and playing a mere 46 G in ‘07, Cristian Guzman came into spring training battling for the Nats’ SS job. He prevailed and had his owners smiling all year with a .316 BA and 183 H.

Outfield

Prognosticators who had the Cards at the bottom of the Central division could not have foreseen the breakout season of Ryan Ludwick who more than doubled his previous career highs; logging a .299 BA with 37 HR and 113 RBI. In Pittsburgh, Nate McLouth used his strong ’07 finish as a springboard to a career year. That his 26 HR and 94 RBI came mostly from the leadoff spot was even more remarkable. Not many players achieve the vaunted 20 HR 20 SB Daily Double. Especially not from the waiver wire, where Jayson Werth of the Phillies was likely plucked by most of his owners.

Starting Pitcher

There was a lot of buzz in Reds’ camp last spring about a rookie pitching phenom. However, while Johnny Cueto was getting all of the attention it was another rook, Edinson Volquez, who emerged as the Cincy ace with 17 W and 206 K.

Relief Pitcher

Some preseason forecasts set the Giants’ win total only slightly higher than the 41 S recorded by stopper Brian Wilson. While his 4.62 ERA was nothing to write home about, he did post 67 K in 62 IP.

Next Week: 2008 AL All Sleeper Team

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.

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