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 »

While injuries have certainly been a prevailing theme for many MLB teams, two managers have been pulling rabbits out of hats all year long. In Los Angeles, both fieldwithballmoon_copy_2zyhJoe Torre and Mike Scioscia have their squads atop the division despite depleted rosters that would have sent lesser teams to the bottom of the standings. Torre has been without Manny Ramirez since April and has seen a complete power outage from C Russell Martin. Scioscia has had to deal with the death of Nick Adenhart, injuries to starters Kelvim Escobar, John Lackey and Ervin Santana while also struggling along without Vladimir Guerrero… It’s absolutely ridiculous that steroid cheat Manny Ramirez gets to do a Minor League rehab before his 50 game suspension is complete. If suspended farmhands have to sit out the whole sentence, why not the big boys?.. Joey Votto returned to the Reds’ lineup last week and picked up right where he left off. After sitting out more than a month, Votto revealed that his emotional problems stemmed from the difficulty he’s had in coping with his dad’s death. Funny how, sometimes, we forget that many of these big leaguers are still just kids. Good luck, Joey… The Marlins got a glimpse of why Andrew Miller was the focal point of the Miguel Cabrera trade with the Tigers. In his last start, Miller gave up a leadoff double vs. the Orioles and then not another knock through 7 IP… Though having hit just 1 HR, Andrew McCutchen has surprised in Pittsburgh with 14 RBI in his first 18 G… When you sit down for your Fantasy Baseball Draft next year, remember that Heath Bell, likely a very, very late pick in mixed drafts, is leading the NL in S while Brad Lidge has blown 7 S already. Never, ever, reach for relievers or chase saves. They always come into the league… Mark Teixeira’s offensive prowess was unquestioned when he signed with the Yankees. What many (me) didn’t know was how smooth he is in the field. He is the very definition of an all- around player… Hope you heeded some Moonlight wisdom about Gil Meche. Since throwing 132 pitches in a complete game, Meche has allowed 13 ER in just 8 IP over 2 starts. Another victim of the pitch count police as he isn’t used to the extra work… Don’t look now, but the Tampa Bay Rays have the AL’s best record since April 30th… Jimmy Rollins returns to the Phillies’ lineup on Tuesday, hoping that his four game vacation will help pull him off the Mendoza line… David Aardsma is turning into a dominant closer for the Mariners… Quick, who is currently the best pitcher in the AL? My vote goes to Josh Beckett. Healthy now, he looks very much like the 2007 version that won 20 G…

Buy Low- Not surprising to find a Colorado Rockie leading this list, as they are the hottest team in the game. Troy Tulowitzki leads the charge, raising his BA more than 40 points over the last two weeks while rediscovering the power he displayed during his stellar rookie year… John Danks has put two dominating performances back to back as the White Sox rotation has started to turn things around… Been waiting all year to add Francisco Liriano to this list. The projected Twins’ ace has looked like his old self in his last two outings…

Sell High- Jesse Palmer currently sports a 7-1 record for the Angels. Make a point of that and deal him before your trade partner notices that he doesn’t strike anyone out and has a 5.16 ERA… Despite vying for the NL batting lead, Pablo Sandoval hasn’t logged any time behind the plate; significantly lowering his value heading into next season’s Fantasy Baseball Draft. If yours is not a keeper league, you might consider moving him for a lot of help in return…

Grab Bag- Mike MacDougal has been a nice surprise for the Nationals since taking over as closer… I know it was only the Mets, baseball’s version of a AAAA team, but Chien Ming Wang turned in his second straight solid performance vs. the Amazins on Sunday. If you’re looking for pitching, you could take a flier on much worse… Oakland turns to Gio Gonzalez after losing Josh Outman to Tommy John surgery. Gonzalez, long a top prospect, was 4-1 2.50 at AAA Sacramento… Chad Gaudin shut out the Rangers in Arlington on Sunday; his third straight dominant outing for Seattle. His K total has spiked over that time as well…

Drop Zone- Bill Hall may have seen his last day as the Brewers staring 3B. With his BA at .197 and Mat Gamel playing well, Hall doesn’t figure to see the field anytime soon… It pains me to write the name Vladimir Guerrero in this spot but that’s just where Vladdy’s power outage has landed him. Take him out of your lineup until he starts driving the ball… Getting close to the time to give up the ghost on the struggling Elijah Dukes…

Sick Bay- It’s starting to become more likely that Brandon Webb won’t be returning to the D’Back’s anytime soon. He’ll seek the opinions of three specialists this week as to what might be wrong with his shoulder and could be out for the season… Braves’ SS Yunel Escobar is trying to play through a hip problem that has forced him to the bench on occasion… Jose Reyes took ground balls and BP over the weekend but still appears to be out until after the break… Carlos Quentin is in the midst of a running program but is no closer to returning from a foot injury…

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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