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 »

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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