by Moonlight Graham

We’ve all heard the opinion espoused by Fantasy Baseball Owners everywhere: No championships are won on Draft Day. However, whether you agree with that or not, most titles ARE won in April. Too many of us put in a ton of work preparing for the Fantasy Baseball Draft only to make the fatal mistake of ignoring our squads during the season’s first few weeks. Don’t be one of those guys.

Every year, even in the deepest of leagues, there are Major League Baseball players on the verge of a Fantasy Breakout season that go undrafted. Last season, alone, Miguel Montero and David Aardsma were just two who were integral parts of many Fantasy League championships despite being left unselected on draft day. The key for you, as an owner, is to identify those hidden gems as early as possible and incorporate them into your daily lineup.

That’s only half the battle, however, as t is just as critical to cut ties with drafted players not performing up to expectations. Daily perusal of the box scores and injury reports is the first step in this process; followed by the much more difficult one that forces you to admit you may have been wrong about a player. Once the draft is over, forget preferences and simply evaluate performance. Continue reading »

by Moonlight Graham

There was a huge shift in the universe last week as the boys from the Hausier’s Krowedum Fantasy Baseball League sat down at the Manor Restaurant for their annual draft.  The three time defending champion Master Batters, huge proponents of spending early picks on outfielders, turned their attention instead to the new position of power in Fantasy Baseball;  the Corner Infield; especially First Base.

That Evan Longoria was the object of the Batters’ affection in the first round of their Fantasy Baseball Draft was indication of a huge change at the top of Fantasy Baseball rankings as well as the direction in which many Fantasy Baseball owners are headed this season in assembling their teams.  To be sure, studs still reside at the top of the Outfield list but not in the abundance with which we’ve become accustomed over recent years.

“You have to adjust on the fly, both before and during a Fantasy Draft”, said Batters’ owner, Bobby Carr.  “We’ve made our living by loading up on Outfielders before people realized waiting was foolish.  But, this year, that theory just didn’t hold up.  We’d have been much weaker had we waited on the Corner Infielders than the outfield.  We just thought we’d be much stronger with Longoria and Justin Upton than with Matt Kemp and Aramis Ramirez.”

Now, who is Moonlight to question a squad that has won six of its league’s last eight titles?  Let’s take a look at the Outfielders available in 2010. Continue reading »

by Moonlight Graham

No position has undergone more change over the last decade than the Middle Infield. Long a collection of slap hitting, base stealers and the occasional power guy, it saw drastic change with the emergence of big guns like Alex Rodriguez, Miguel Tejada, Jeff Kent and Barry Larkin.  Even marginal, late round options like Jose Valentin were good for better than 20 HR.

However, retirement, injury and position change have all been factors in depleting the ranks of the Middle Infielders that’ll give you a boost in the power department.  While some do remain, (Hanley Ramirez and Chase Utley will cost you a first rounder), for the most part, many Fantasy Baseball owners will settle for the mid-round options that produce low, double-digit HR’s, a solid BA and a decent number of SB.  The trick is, to find that one player who could break the mold and give you a top tier performance for a second tier price.

Fantasy Stars

-  Unless you’ve got one of the first two picks, you can forget Hanley Ramirez.  After that, Troy Tulowitzki and Jose Reyes top the Shortstop list but neither is a sure thing. Tulo comes off a terrific season but Fantasy Baseball owners still bear the burn marks from his disastrous ’08 season.  New York Mets’ star, Reyes, is not only coming off of a campaign lost to injury but was just cleared to play after a thyroid condition sidelined him for most of camp.  Don’t reach for either.  On the other side of the bag, Utley and Ian KInsler are the cream of the crop but Cincinnati Reds’ second sacker, Brandon Phillips, may be the best value.  He’s a guaranteed 20-20 from a position where that’s rare and he bats cleanup.  Going with that theory, we’d also have to add Robinson Cano of the New York Yankees, as he’s been moved to the five hole of that very potent lineup. Continue reading »

by Moonlight Graham

Pitchers and Hitters

Despite the fact that the Red Sox took a beating last week in the Bronx, Josh fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhBeckett, Clay Bucholz and Jon Lester all turned in solid performances on the hill…   Baltimore’s Aubrey Huff has cleared waivers and can now be dealt… Despite posting stellar numbers in Seattle, Jarrod Washburn has been brutal in two starts since being traded to Detroit.  Some guys seem to thrive on mediocre teams… Angels’ OF Vlad Guerrero is 10 for 28 with 4 HR since returning from the DL… Since the All Star break, Twins’ starters have an ERA of 5.97, severely limiting Joe Nathan’s save opportunities… Ichiro Suzuki is 30 hits shy of becoming the first Major Leaguer with 200 hits in 9 consecutive seasons… Milwaukee’s Manny Parra is 4-0, 1.10 since returning from the minors… The Phillies have moved Jamie Moyer into the bullpen to clear a spot in the rotation for Pedro Martinez.  Hard to imagine Moyer will have any Fantasy Baseball value as a reliever… San Diego rookie Mat Latos has 4 wins in his first 5 starts… Nyjer Morgan is hitting .362 since coming to Washington from Pittsburgh… Troy Tulowitzki, fresh off a 7 RBI game that featured a cycle, is now batting cleanup for the Rockies… Is there any MLB player that gets less respect than Adam Dunn?  On his way to his fifth straight 40 HR season, Dunn almost had to beg for a contract last winter before signing with the Nationals… Derek Jeter, Jorge Posada, Alex Rodriguez and Mariano Rivera are all nursing minor injuries.  Don’t be surprised if Yankee manager Joe Girardi takes advantage of their six game lead and gives each an occasional day off… The Brewers’ sent the struggling J.J. Hardy to the minors and presented Fantasy Baseball owners with an opportunity for some quick, cheap SB by handing the SS job to rookie Alcides Escobar, who had 42 SB when called up… Boston’s Kevin Youkilis will not appeal the five game suspension for his ridiculous overreaction to being plunked Monday night by Rick Porcello… Porcello was also handed a 5 game ban but will only miss one turn in the Tigers’ rotation… 30 of Rays’ 1B Carlos Pena’s 85 H have been HR.

Buy Low

In Detroit, Magglio Ordonez has turned in three straight solid performances vs. RHP and may be on the verge of getting his full time job back.  He’s not the Magglio we all know and love but, he could help you down the stretch… Seattle’s Franklin Gutierrez has been moved up to the second spot in the order and should see a bump in R…

Sell High

Kenji Johjima is losing playing time to Rob Johnson and hasn’t made consecutive starts in a month… Not only did Tampa Bay drop B.J. Upton to ninth in the batting order, he’s pissing and moaning about it; not a good sign… Roy Oswalt was cuffed around in his first start off the DL and may be more valuable to you in a trade…

Grab Bag

Kyle Davies makes his second consecutive appearance in the Grab Bag after a strong outing vs. Minnesota.  He’s worth a shot, especially in AL only leagues… Royals’ 1B Billy Butler has 36 doubles and is a FA in most mixed leagues.  Don’t forget his September power surge last year… Denard Span was 9-14 vs. Detroit last weekend and seems to have jumped ahead of Delmon Young and Carlos Gomez in the crowded Minnesota outfield… If you’re looking for W in your AL only league, Seattle’s Ryan Rowland-Smith might be a nice pickup based on his two solid outings since coming off the DL… Trent Oeltjen has started his MLB career with a .500 BA over his first 6 games and will be a regular in the D’Backs’ OF with Chris Young gone… Don’t look now but Barry Zito is 3-0 2.19 over his last 4 starts…

Drop Zone

Can’t believe there will be much playing time left for Scott Podsednik in Chicago now that Alex Rios is on board.  There may only be pinch running and an occasional start… Jose Contreras is 0-4 6.75 over his last five and doesn’t even warrant a spot on a deep, AL only roster. Dump him before Ozzie Guillen does… Tampa plans to use a platoon behind the plate, giving Gregg Zaun most of the AB and rendering Dioner Navarro worthless… Patience has finally run out in Arizona for OF Chris Young who was dispatched to the minors this week…

Sick Bay

Carlos Delgado has experienced a setback in his rehab and will probably not return this season… Justin Duchscherrer returns to Oakland’s rotation this weekend after being out all year with elbow and back issues… Cubs’ 3B Aramis Ramirez is experiencing soreness in the shoulder he dislocated in May… Chad Billingsley missed a start for the Dodgers with a strained hamstring but should avoid the DL…

by Moonlight Graham

The HK Fantasy Baseball League

Did he really do that?

Last Sunday morning, having received an absolute gem from Johan Santana the day before, Skippy Shakes owner Bob Carr looked at the HK Fantasy standings and found himself one point ahead of the Mean Street Posse and a point and a half ahead of Ricciardi Brothers Inc. Having waged a two month assault on the top spot from as far back as twenty seven points, Carr had finally grabbed the lead with just one day to go. Unfortunately, he couldn’t leave well enough alone and almost managed himself out of a title.

One of the deals that catapulted his Shakes squad in the last two months was the acquisition of C.C. Sabathia. As the Brewers’ ace carried his squad toward the playoffs, he also carried Carr; allowing the Shakes to make huge gains in the pitching categories. So, with C.C. on the bump for Milwaukee’s finale, Carr was sitting pretty. Santana had given him the slightest of leads in ERA and WHIP. Leads that were crucial to holding on to the top spot. So, what did Carr do? He reserved Sabathia rather than risk a bad outing. The plan was to stay right where he was and allow the others to fall back. Sadly, he paid no mind to the results of his last grand plan to protect his ERA; the ill fated benching of Hideo Nomo on the day he threw a no-no at Coor’s Field. Lightning couldn’t strike twice in the same place, could it?

As Sabathia was holding the Cubbies to just four hits and one run during his complete game, Carr watched in horror as Jerry Manuel summoned Luis Ayala from the bullpen for the Mets. True to form, Ayala grooved one for Dan Uggla, pushing Carr’s ERA just below Ricciardi Bros. and creating a three way tie. That Tim Lincecum and Ubaldo Jimenez had strong outings for RBI only served to drop the Shakes further down in the category. Carr was distraught.

Resigning himself to being the perpetrator of the biggest bonehead move in league history, he flipped through the channels to see if there were any games still going on. That’s when he stumbled across the ninth inning of the Mariners- A’s game and found the now beautiful J.J.Putz standing on the mound protecting a one run lead. Forgetting for the moment that he had cursed Putz’s incompetence for two months, he now begged his fellow redhead for just three outs. You see, Carr was also tied in the saves category and could gain a critical half point if Putz could only close out the A’s. He did and Carr had his league title by the slimmest of margins. He still pulled the biggest gaffe in fantasy league history but at least it didn’t cost him a Yoo-Hoo shower.

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Next week, we’ll start to look back at the 2008 season with Fantasy Awards and readers’ tales of their successes and failures, booms and busts and plans going forward. Enjoy the playoffs as we turn our focus back to the world where the only numbers that count are the ones on the scoreboard. Incidentally, I like a Rays- Cubs World Series so, you might want to put a little money down on any of the other six teams.

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