The Weekly Tail ‘Gater – Fantasy Guru Looks Into Cyrtsal Ball

Mike Nanna

Albert Pujols will be drafted first, but who goes second?

This really depends on what your league values. If the statistical categories lean towards speed by counting triples, stolen bases, etc., than Jose Reyes is the pick. If you’re playing in a 5×5 league where homers and RBI’s count heavily, than Ryan Howard is your choice. In the end, I always feel safer with a laser/rocket arm in my closet, so Johan Santana would be my preference. Then again, Alfonso Soriano did have a 40/40 season last year.

When should you draft a reliever?

Never. I’m kidding, but only slightly. Relievers are so easy to come by on the waiver wire once the season starts, so it’s really pointless to waste an early pick on one. Often times it makes more sense just to steal some sleepers late and monitor your league’s free agent market once the season starts. Every year there are a few guys that come out of nowhere to become stud relievers; you just need to pick them up before your buddy does.

What is the weakest position in fantasy baseball?

Hands down, it is second base. There is only one name to know at this position: Chase Utley. If you don’t catch him in the first two rounds, forget about the position until at least the 10th round because there is no one else worth grabbing early.

Which position is deceptively strong this year?

Third base has made a comeback as of late. The position is probably the strongest position outside of first base in this year’s draft. It is truly loaded from top to bottom with studs, sleepers, and consistent guys who just fill up your stat sheet. Don’t forget to grab Royals rookie Alex Gordon with a late round draft pick; the kid is for real.

Which position is deceptively weak this year?

Starting pitchers are always second bananas to their hitting counterparts in fantasy baseball, but this year’s pitching crop is extremely thin. There is only one surefire stud in Johan Santana with a few starters just behind him in Roy Oswalt, Chris Carpenter, and Carlos Zambrano; unfortunately, the position thins out quickly. When one considers the fact that many leagues require at least five starting pitchers, you quickly realize how sparse this position really is. Don’t be afraid to get two studs early and let your friends worry about choosing between Gustavo Chacin and Carl Pavano.

Which player will be drafted five rounds too early?

Frank Thomas has had one good year in the last three seasons, which usually would not bode well for one’s fantasy status. However, that one good year happened to occur last season, so chances are someone will pick him way too early and be disappointed when he goes down with a hamstring injury in May.

Which player will be drafted five rounds too late?

I’m going to go with a young player with this one just because I think he will contribute in a big way this year and probably won’t get picked until the ninth round or later. The gentleman I’m referring to is Delmon Young of the Tampa Bay Devil Rays, who has the talent to hit 25 home runs and steal 25 bases this year. That alone merits fourth round consideration in my book.

Which off-season acquisition will be the biggest boom with his new team?

Alfonso Soriano is the easy pick here. The man had a 40/40 season last year with little protection in one of the worst hitter’s parks in baseball. What will he do in the loveable bandbox called Wrigley Field hitting between two mashers in Derek Lee and Aramis Ramirez? This is a no-brainer.

Which off-season acquisition will be the biggest bust with his new team?

The first two names that come to mind are J.D. Drew and Barry Zito because of the criticisms the Red Sox and Giants have taken for the monster contracts they gave to the two former All-Stars. However, I actually think a lot of people are underestimating Zito in fantasy terms, after his long stint as one of the more overrated players in baseball. The fact of the matter is that he’s moving out of the tough A.L.West into the weak N.L. West, one of the easiest divisions to pitch in (outside of games pitched at Coors Field). Zito could actually flourish in the senior circuit with all things considered. On the other hand, J.D. Drew will struggle under the bright lights of Fenway Park, especially when he starts missing time for freak injuries. I think J.D. Drew is the best bet here.

What is the one rule you must always remember to follow in fantasy baseball?

Don’t fall into the trap of positional runs. If you see four straight closers get picked, don’t be the fool who picks closer number five; you’re just hurting yourself. Chances are you could have given yourself an advantage at another position instead of just assuring yourself the fifth best closer. The fact of the matter is that the difference between players in the middle of a positional run isn’t all that much.