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.

It may have been a sad year for Mets fans but it wasn’t necessarily so for fantasy owners of the team’s two stars, 3B David Wright and OF Carlos Beltran, each of whom turned in terrific season for their Fantasy owners.  Those late season collapses that the Amazin’s seem to have perfected don’t seem to leave as many scars in the Roto world, especially when your guys are still producing.  Here then, is a list of NL stars who kept Fantasy players smiling throughout the season.

Catcher-Brian McCann noses out Geovany Soto for the nod as top backstop in the NL.   Despite an Atlanta lineup that had difficulty staying healthy and then lost Mark Teixeira, McCann stayed consistent all year.  His .301 BA, 23 HR and 87 RBI solidified his spot on top of the fantasy rankings headed into the 2009.

First Base-While Ryan Howard’s 46 HR and 148 RBI carried the Phils into the post season, it was Albert Pujols’ overall excellence that garners him the nod here. Albert posted an amazing .357 BA while smashing his usual 37 HR and 116 RBI.  That he did it all with an elbow that needed surgery is even more amazing.

Second Base-Philly’s Chase Utley seemed to lock up this honor by Memorial Day.  However, his slump during the middle months brought him back to the pack before his late season surge put him on top for good.  Look to grab his .292 BA, 33 HR and 104 RBI in the first round of next year’s draft.

Shortstop-Hanley Ramirez may have been the most productive Fantasy player across the board in the Major Leagues.  If only the Marlins would drop him from the leadoff spot and let him get 100 RBI.  As it was,  his .301 BA, 33 HR 125 R and 35 SB warrant the first pick of 2009.

Third Base-Wright.  The Mets’ third sacker has established a model of consistency that has almost become boring.  Even though his SB were down somewhat this year, he is still a top five pick in any league.

Outfield-Fresh off his being robbed of last year’s MVP award, the Rockies’ Matt Holliday set about raising his game.  While his 25 HR and 88 RBI were lower than expected because of a month lost to injury, his 28 SB and .321 BA made him one of the elite.  The subject of off season trade rumors, he’s a keeper no matter where he plays next season.  Carlos Beltran quietly provided another 25 HR 25 SB season while also knocking in 112 RBI and scoring 116 R.  Houston’s Lance Berkman split his time between 1B and OF and gains recognition here for his overall excellence.  On top of his .312 BA, 29 HR and 106 RBI he also posted 18 SB.

Starting Pitcher-If you were fortunate enough to draft Tim Lincecum, hang on to the youngster for as long as you can.  He had 18 W for a team that won only 70 and led the league in K by a wide margin; ringing up 265 batters.  Can’t wait to see his W totals as the Giants improve.

Relief Pitcher-Brad Lidge is an easy choice with 41 S in 41 chances while posting 92 K out of the bullpen.

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