|Connelly’s Top Ten: Comebacks, Championships and Doobie Brothers||Patriots 2014-2015 Position Review: Quarterbacks||Cubs Hire Manny, Youkilis to Try to Become ’04 Red Sox…Literally||Red Sox 2015 Preview: Buchholz, Porcello, Miley, Masterson, Kelly|
The largest division in baseball is brimming with fantasy talent from top to bottom. This division contains the single most dominant player of the past decade, who you will be drafting first overall in any draft. Even though he may overshadow other players, the N.L. Central has a lot of early round talent worth spending big bucks on.
The Red made a surprising surge in the rankings with their potent offense and steady starting pitching. One player on this team is a first rounder while other supporting cast members will be gone within the first five rounds.
The reigning NL MVP had his breakout season backed up by legitimate skills that he has flashed in years past. Votto showed well rounded skills posting .324/37/114 with 16 SB, but I can’t guarantee another season of 15+ swipes. What I will tell you is that Votto’s power and hitting are getting better every season and 2011 will be at least more of the same. Lock in the same numbers, it’s almost “Vottomatic”.
Here is another young hitter who is on the cusp of a breakout season. In 2010, Bruce finally solved left handers with a .277 BA against southpaws and he had a fantastic 2nd half by hitting .306/15/34 after the break. I must say though, if it doesn’t happen this season, then when will it happen?
It wasn’t long ago when Cueto was Cincinnati’s next big thing. It looks like he turned a corner in 2010 by lowering his ERA to 3.64. He isn’t flashy with the strikeouts, but he also doesn’t surrender too many free passes and he up’d his GB rate in the 2nd half to 45%. Remember, not flashy, but dependable.
First and foremost, Arroyo is not a strikeout pitcher. His K/9 fell to 5.05, but his GB rate stays over 40% and his K/BB in the 2nd half of last season was a stellar 3.7. Last season marked the 6th consecutive year of 200+ IP, so the guy is a workhorse with good control.
All of the focus in the fantasy community is on one man. It is the man who should be taken 1st overall in any draft, but he has a supporting cast worth considering. The biggest news in the offseason was the injury to fantasy ace pitcher Adam Wainright who will miss 2011 while recovering from Tommy John surgery.
THE player to have in drafts. If you have the first overall pick, you shouldn’t even be considering anyone else. Last season, Pujols set a career low in BA…hitting .312. He also failed to reach .600 SLG for only the 2nd time in his career…so he hit .596. All I have to tell you is that over his 10 seasons, Pujols is averaging 118 R/40 HR/123 RBI and is a career .331 hitter. Enough said.
For all those who though Holliday needed Coors Field to be successful, I will tell you that you are wrong. He obviously just needs any N.L. park, but that’s not the point. What we see from Holliday’s season and a half in St. Louis is great hitting and RBI opportunities (thanks Pujols). In 221 games, he’s hit .324 with 41 HR and 158 RBI, so there’s no reason why he would decline anytime soon.
Who else though he was finished after Tommy John surgery? 2010 marked the 2nd straight season of 190+ IP including 235 last season, so injuries don’t look to be a nagging issue. Carpenter has put up ace numbers in the past two years, so he has clearly regained the form that won him the Cy Young in ’05. Get past the injury concerns and draft with confidence.
The rookie impressed in his first full season by posting superb 2.70 ERA in 28 starts and racking up 13 wins. His walks are a tad high (3.5/9 IP), but he’s a sinker ball pitcher who will keep the ball on the ground, so even if the ERA rises, it won’t spike through the roof.
Talk about loaded with talent. Oh, not just talent, but young talent…on both sides. The Brewers give us hard-hitting offense and some borderline elite starting pitching. The Brew Crew could make a run at an N.L. Central title, which means fantasy talent is abundant no matter where you look.
Braun’s days as a first rounder will end in 2011 if he can’t stop this freefall in the HR department. Sporting just 25 longballs in 2010, Braun reached .500 SLG thanks to 45 doubles, but that doesn’t mean he is useless. He still hit .304 and put in his 3rd straight year of 100+ RBI and 2nd straight year of 100+ runs. While huge September was encouraging (.323/6/23), the Hebrewer may be kissing his 30 HR days goodbye.
Fielder’s power is not in question, he even put up 32 HR in what is considered a bad year for him. His big hurdle is left-handed pitching. Last season, his RH/LH splits were very much black and white as he only hit .226/336/.332 against southpaws. He’s shown he can hit lefties in the past, so if he corrects that in 2011, then he will have another huge year.
While not as jaw-dropping as his Cy Young season in ’09, Greinke was a serviceable start last year. His ERA jumped to over 4.00 and he struck out less batters, but his skills from ’09 remained relatively the same (except for K’s). You could just call it a fluke season, but keep an eye on him. Then again, moving to the N.L. increases odds of great rebound season.
Gallardo is a stud pitcher even if nobody knows it. He reached 200 K’s for the first time in his career and put up 14 wins and a 3.84 ERA. Only a truly terrible August (7.75 ERA in 33.2 IP) watered down his season. My only complaint are the 75 BB. If he can get those under control, the he can join the elite.
Houston is not the team of fantasy studs it once was as the most noteworthy name on offense is now Carlos Lee, but there are other decent options sprinkled about in both the lineup and the rotation.
Lately, Lee has been trying to eat his weight in Twinkees. Add that to his unfortunate .238 BABIP last season, and no wonder he hit .246 last year. He is still making a lot of contact and he is still hitting plenty if flyballs. A nice rebound is a sure thing, but the BA will top out around .270.
Pence’s consistency is borderline scary. He’s hit exactly 25 HR for three straight seasons and has hit exactly .282 for the past two years. Pence up’d his SB total to 18, and he flashed phenomenal power numbers in the 2nd half with his FB rate spiking to 40%. If nothing else, another 25 HR are on the way, but if last year’s 2nd half is a sign of things to come, then we may see 30.
A tale of two seasons as we saw Wandy post 6-11 record and 4.97 ERA before break and 5-1, 2.11 ERA in 2nd half. He did everything right after the All Star Break by increasing K total while simultaneously cutting down on walks. We know he has the stuff, so buy into 2nd half rather than first.
Myers returned to glory with his 2010 season as he went at least 6.0 IP in all but one start and increased his strikeout totals and induced a ton of groundballs. If he stays healthy for another season, then we will see an encore in 2011.
These aren’t your daddy’s Cubs. The biggest news in the offseason was the acquisition of former Rays Matt Garza and Carlos Pena. Other than that, this is the same team we’ve seen for the past several seasons.
Most people will see the overall numbers and stay away, so that is why you can get Ramirez on the cheap. Let’s not forget that he was hampered by a thumb injury for the first part of the season. The numbers don’t lie; he hit 19 HR in the 2nd half with a .293 BA. No worries here.
2010 marked the first time since ’07 that Pena failed to break 30 HR and 100 RBI. In grand fashion, he hit .196 for the season. I’ve never been a Pena fan, but call me crazy, but I think a slight (SLIGHT) resurgence in his move to the N.L. is in order. His power could even fly off the charts at Wrigley. The hitting will still be atrocious, but not sub .200.
After a terrible sophomore slump, Soto didn’t return to his rookie form, but he came back with more than respectable numbers (for a catcher) by hitting .280/17/53. Shoulder problems limited playing time, but if he’s healthy, then 25 HR is on the horizon.
Dempster put in his 3rd straight season of 200+ IP and delivered with his first 200+ K season since 2000. In the second half, he slightly fell off by issuing more walks, but the K-rate never faltered. Fatigue as the season goes on is still a small concern, but there’s no reason he can’t have another solid season.
Garza has two straight seasons of sub-4.00 ERA, but it is an illusion. Garza’s BB/9 is near 3.0, his K/9 is eroding, his FB% is over 45, and he allowed 28 HR last season. A lot of luck has gone into his double-digit wins and decent ERA. An implosion is imminent.
*Sigh*, let’s get this over with. Ok, so things are looking bleek in Pittsburgh, but reasonable players are to be found. Just stay away from the rotation. If your team has Paul Maholm or Ross Ohlendorf anywhere on your staff, then I revoke your rights to play fantasy baseball.
The first Pirate off any draft board, McCutchen is a budding speed/power combo. While he won’t reach superstardom this season, he will have a good shot at hitting .300 with 20 HR and 30 SB.
Another young star in the making, Alvarez made a decent splash in his rookie season with 16 HR and 64 RBI in 95 games. While he failed to hit lefties (.228), he is still developing. Plus, strong September (.311/5/26) are a sign of good things to come.
The Pirates closer finished with 100 K’s in 69.2 IP and showed great improvement in his GB% and K/9. He’s never been a full time closer, which some could see as a red flag, but I think he’ll be able to lock down 30 saves.
I will not fully endorse any Pittsburgh starting pitcher. When Paul Maholm is your anchor, the you have problems.