04 March 2005

Infielder Fantasy Picks for 2005

Those of us who serve as columnists on 360thePitch.com were asked to discuss infielders for the upcoming Fantasy Baseball season, so I did. But please note that the following is nothing more than my (slightly) educated opinion on these matters, and is not necessarily the opinion of 360thePitch.com or its affiliates, General Electric, Disney, CBS or the Pentavaret, who control everything in the world, including the Newspapers, and who meet tri-annually at a secret country mansion in Colorado known as "The Meadows".

Also, before I give you my Fantasy Baseball picks for Infielders, or anything at all for that matter, you should understand two things:

1) I didn't finish higher than 8th in any of the three leagues I played in last year.
B) I've never had to do a live draft or bid for players in a Roto league.

Therefore, I take absolutely no responsibility for any money you lose basing your Fantasy picks on my writing. But if you win, I want a cut.

With that said...

First Class:
You know the big names: Javy Lopez (34), Ivan Rodriguez (33), Jorge Posada (33), Mike Piazza (36), Jason Varitek (32). All would be solid picks, but all are on the wrong side of 30, and catchers tend not to age well. Piazza may again be an elite catcher though, as the Mets are reportedly planning to let him be the regular backstop, and not without cause: he hit .331/.419/.552 as a catcher, 0.223/.326/.372 elsewhere.

Victor Martinez, at 26, should continue to build on his impressive 2004 numbers, and should be even better as he and his teammates mature. I'd take Martinez over any of the others, except maybe Piazza. Maybe.

Mike Lieberthal and Jason Kendall remain solid picks. Lieberthal has lots of protection in that Phillies lineup, and Kendall could thrive with an Oakland team that values OBP, but don't expect many steals. Both are in this class only if your league penalizes you for strikeouts. Otherwise they drop to...

Business Class
More than likely, half of the names above will end up down here as their ages catch up with them, especially Posada. A.J. Pierzynski could put up better numbers than 2004, as he's going from a severe pitcher's park back to a hitter's park in Chicago, and is still in his prime at only 28. Look for Michael Barrett and Johnny Estrada to take a step back from last season's career year numbers, though Estrada should still be decent. Joe Mauer is a solid hitter all around, but is still young, and doesn't have a lot of power. Rockies backstop J.D. Closser could be a bargain simply on the merits of Coors Field. The Royals' John Buck is also on the way up, and should be helped by the fact that Kauffman Stadium has been playing like Coors Lite, except without the nasty aftertaste.

Economy Class
There are probably a dozen guys who will hit something like .250 with 12-15 homers. If you have to get stuck with one of them, the key is to know which ones will be cheap and which won't. Little known Dave Ross of the Dodgers and Guillermo Quiroz of the Blue Jays could put up solid, cheap power numbers, but their averages won't impress. Rod Barajas will probably put up numbers comparable to Ramon Hernandez, Benito Santiago, Jason LaRue and Miguel Olivo, but he hits in a better lineup and doesn't have the name recognition of some other players, so he could come cheap.

Stay away from anyone over 35, and anyone named "Brad", "Paul" or "Molina."

First Base:

First Class: Offense is cheap at 1B, but Albert Pujols is practically in a class by himself, followed closely by Todd Helton and not closely by Jim Thome, Mark Teixeira, and Justin Morneau, who hit 41 homers between AAA and the majors last season. David Ortiz, Travis Hafner and Aubrey Huff are also very good, though they'll see more time at OF or DH in 2005 than as a 1B. Carlos Delgado, Paul Konerko, Sean Casey and Derek Lee are just a step below.

Business Class
Look for Richie Sexton to make a nice comeback from his injury, but his numbers will be hurt a little by Safeco Field. Jeff Bagwell is getting old, but is still productive. Lyle Overbay and Craig Wilson are not likely to repeat their 2004 performances, but should still be decent picks if you don't get one of the big guys. Phil Nevin, Hee Seop Choi, Kevin Millar and Ben Broussard are all solid picks, and at 27, Carlos Pena could break out and finally come through on the hype we heard when he came up through the Oakland organization. Nick Johnson could impress if he can stay healthy all season, which is about as likely as Nick Nolte staying out of jail all season. Casey Kotchman could impress if Darin Erstad gets hurt and misses significant time, which I think is due for this year, no? A healthy Jason Giambi could make a nice comeback to his pre-tumor, pre-parasite, pre-steroid controversy performance.

Economy Class Ken Harvey, Scott Hatteberg, Tino Martinez, Adam LaRoche and Jay Gibbons won't kill you at 1B, but they're close. Stay away from Doug Mientkiewicz, Travis Lee, J.T. Snow and Erstad.

Second Base:

First Class:
Look for Alfonso Soriano to bounce back from a slightly down year and rejoin the 30-30 club. Jeff Kent's power numbers might be hurt a little by Dodger Stadium, but he's still one of the better second sackers out there. A full, healthy year from 27-year old Marcus Giles should be one of the three or four best 2Bs in baseball. Ray Durham and Brian Roberts are both solid picks, but Roberts only has value at the keystone, not in the outfield.

Business Class
Luis Castillo has no power, but he gets on base, and if he starts stealing again, he's a solid second-tier pick at second base. Bret Boone and Mark Bellhorn will give you 20-25 homers, but they'll have trouble hitting .260. Take Bellhorn if your league values OBP. D'Angelo Jimenez, Aaron Miles and Kazuo Matsui will give you a little pop and a little speed without killing your batting average. New White Sox import Tadahito Iguchi
should do the same, but may come cheaper as an unknown. Chase Utley could hit 25 homers if he gets to play every day, and Jose Vidro may reverse his slide and hit .300 with 20+ homers again.

Economy Class
Look for Mark Loretta, Tony Womack and Ron Belliard to take a big step backward after their 2004 career years. Belliard may be all but worthless. Kieth Ginter could hit 20 homers but won't do much else. Junior Spivey, if healthy, is worht a look. If not, rookie Rickie Weeks could impress, but probably needs more time in the minors. Mark Grudzielanek isn't the worst option around, but he's close. Stay away from Craig Counsell, Luis (Oh-for-Th)Rivas and future Hall of Famer Roberto Alomar.

Third Base:
First Class:
Alex Rodriguez, after a year of adjusting, should return to MVP form in 2005.
Expect the law of averages and the law of Safeco Field to bring Adrian Beltre back to earth, where he'll still be one of the best half dozen or so thirdbasemen around. Scott Rolen isn't likely to repeat last year's performance either, but he's still an elite player at the Hot Corner. If Troy Glaus can stay healthy, going from a moderate pitchers' park to a severe hitters' park could help him hit 40 homers again. Melvin Mora probably won't hit .340 again, but he should still be a good bet for a .290 average and 25 homers. Eric Chavez led the AL in walks in 2004, and should be coming into his prime as a hitter, at age 27, as is Aramis Ramirez, though he doesn't have Chavez' patience. Hank Blalock is only 24 and gets better every day.

Business Class
A healthy Chipper Jones could hit .290 with 30 homers and jump up to First Class, but .270 with 25 is more likely. Look for Mike Lowell and Corey Koskie in the same range of performance. Angels' rookie Dallas McPherson was probably ready for a job in the majors two years ago, but with Glaus gone, the 3B job in Anaheim (or wherever the hell it is they play with that stupid name) is hit to lose, which he won't. Aaron Boone and David Wright are among the few third-sackers who steal a few bases, giving them a little more value than a .275 average with 20 homers usually buys you at this position. Wright could be even better.

Economy Class
Michael Cuddyer and Morgan Ensberg could come cheap, and might only need an everyday job to show what they can do, namely hit .290 with power and patience. Joe Crede's 27, and could bounce back to have a nice year, something like .270 with 25 homers. David Bell should not be expected to repeat his 2004 numbers, and would probably best serve both the Phillies and you if his spring injury turns out to be serious, as no one will be inappropriately waiting on him to produce.

If someone could find a way to clone Sean Burroughs' ability to hit for average and Jose Valentin's ability to hit for power into one player, there might be a useful National League thirdbaseman in southern California, but in this reality, there isn't. Stay away from both, as well as Alex Gonzales, Vinny Castilla and Edgardo Alfonso. Don't bother with Bill Mueller, Joe Randa or Royals' rookie Mark Teahen, who isn't ready yet and might never be.


First Class:
Edgar Renteria and Derek Jeter are the best of a suddenly weak group, though Nomar Garciaparra could return to his formerly impressive self if he can keep from being hit by a...OUCH! There goes one now!. Well, don't hold your breath.

Jimmy Rollins could break out with some guidance from a real leadoff hitter like Kenny Lofton, Miguel Tejada has the most power of any shortstop in baseball right now, and hits in the middle of a good lineup, so he's up here as well. Rafael Furcal is in his prime, and makes up in speed and patience what he lacks in power.
Business Class
Mike Young isn't likely to hit .313 again, but should still be a solid SS with a .290 average and 15-20 homers. 2004 AL Rookie of the Year Bobby Crosby should gain a little batting average as he matures, and may steal more bases as well. Orlando Cabrera can't possibly be as bad as he was last year, and Carlos Guillen probably isn't as good. Look for them to meet somewhere in the middle, though Guillen should still be better. Jose Reyes could impress if he can stay healthy. Look for 30 steals if he gets 600 at bats.

Economy Class
Adam Everett, Angel Berroa and Clint Barnes will give you a little power, and little speed, a little average, but not a lot of anything. Juan Uribe was the rarest of birds last season: someone who hits better after leaving Colorado. Don't expect it to continue. Khalil Green was decent last year before he got hurt, but might be worth a look. Expect Jack Wilson to return to earth (AKA .270 with ~10 homers) after hitting .308 last year. Stay away from Royce Clayton, Christian Guzman, Julio Lugo and especially Omar Vizquel. Even if being 38 doesn't kill his stats, SBC Park will.


Want a second opinion? Go check out my colleagues at 360thePitch.com...

...and you're ugly, too!

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