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…

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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